Nahant Victorian Dance Weekend

nick and katy

Recap and Photos of the 2013 Nahant Victorian Dance Weekend

The weather was lovely, the venues were gorgeous, but the best part of the events was the smiling faces of happy dancers! We want to thank everyone who attended the weekend, you made it such a joy to behold and our amazing army of volunteers--we couldn’t have done the events without your help. We hope you enjoy the photos of our Dance Weekend.
Request for Photos and Videos
We would like to save mementos of the Nahant Weekend and add photos and videos to our archive--but we only got a small number ourselves! We need your help. If you have any photographs or videos of any part of the Weekend (from any year present or past) we would love for you to share them with us. We are always so busy running the event that we don’t take many photos of our own.
We’ll post links to photos when we have them, check back often. Look in the New York Times Sunday August 18 for On the Street and Evening Hours coverage in the Style Section. The pictures are available online now:

  • Bill's pictures of the Ball are on the New York Times’ website.
  • Pictures of the Sunday events are online too!
  • A video compilation of the whole Weekend can be seen here: On the Street (warning, this video opens with sound).

The Workshop

The Weekend started with the dance workshop to introduce the attendees to some of the basics of the dances for the evening. Ben Bishop, our co-host and prompter for the evening, ran us through some dance basics to prepare everyone for the evening’s festivities. We danced Grand March figures, including the Bowers pictured below. We also practiced some turning dances, the Nahant Quadrilles and, a new dance for us, a contra dance called Trip to Nahant.

workshop-grand march bowers
workshop grand march
workshop quadrille

The Grand Ball

The Grand Ball An Evening in Vienna took place in the lovely setting of the Nahant Town Hall. There were almost 100 people in attendance with some people joining us from as far away as California. An international flair was added by the dancers who joined us from Canada and France. Several little girls enjoyed dancing on the veranda, and one 5 year old little lady celebrated her birthday that evening. The ladies’ gowns ranged from styles of the hoop-skirted 1850s and 60s, through bustles of the 1870s and 80s, 1890s gigot sleeves, to turn-of-the-century confections. It was a true Belle Epoque evening that was visually stunning. .

waltzing in the ballroom
twirl the girl
twirl the girl

During breaks in the dancing we cooled ourselves on the piazza--what old-time Nahanters call the porch.

on the piazza

The Refreshments

The Refreshments, freshly prepared by our fabulous volunteer staff, many of which were inspired by Viennese specialities, including Linzer cookies, gingerbread violins, and diminutive chocolate cakes. The repast was especially enjoyed by our younger attendees. The refreshments would not have been possible without the hard work of many volunteers behind-the-scenes, thank you!

refreshment table
cookie or cake

The four-year-old’s dilemma: do I eat the cookie first, or the cake...


The Concert, Formal Tea, and Promenade

The Weekend concluded with a Concert: Waltzing Through Time by the incomparable Spare Parts tracing the evolution of waltz music from the eighteenth century through the Ragtime Era. The concert was punctuated with short dance demonstrations by Katy, Ben, and Nick Bishop of various vintage waltz styles.

spare parts

The music was followed by formal Victorian Tea prepared by John Burrows and Chris Ricciotti, including John’s famous scones.


After tea we strolled through Nahant, surprising the modern, scantily clad, beach-goers. We promenaded to East Point, the site of Nahant’s long gone Grand Hotel, and some of us even removed our shoes and stockings to dip our feet in the Atlantic!

bill cunningham
bustling along
cooling our feet
by the sea

Help Us Plan & Improve! We’re already beginning our plans for the 23rd Annual Nahant Victorian event. If you have any suggestions on what we did right or what could improve the weekend, please tell us! we hope we will see you all by the seaside in Summer 2014!

The Ball Card

ball card

The Ball Card, designed by Katy Bishop, was very personal and inspired by some favourite images. The dancing lady on the cover came from a period dance card in the collection of the Nahant Historical Society, from an early 20th Century dance.

ball card

The pink Art Nouveau floral design inside the card was inspired by Katy’s grandmother’s tablecloth from Vienna (ca. 1910s). The card is pictured here on the tablecloth, a shell pink and white damask linen, embroidered with her initials “O K” for Olga Kurz.

ball card

The Programme for the evening had 9 dances listed on the card, with extras interspersed throughout. Spare Parts repertoire featured tunes by many Viennese composers interspersed with Nahant related tunes.
Early in the evening we danced our own Nahant Quadrilles (music with calls by John H. Hewitt, 1836) which has been danced at most of the Nahant weekends. The current version of the choreography was reconstructed by Patri J. Pugliese in 2006. We also included a new dance for us, a contra dance called Trip to Nahant (calls found in Howe’s Ballroom Hand Book of 800 Dances, Elias Howe, 1858).
The dancing ended with a final gallop as they do in Vienna instead of a final waltz as is traditional in the US. In the Gallop we expend all of our remaining energy, collapsing into our carriages to head homeward in the wee hours of the morning...

ball card

The Organizers and staff for the evening were too numerous to list on the card. We can’t thank everyone enough for all the hard work before,during, and after the event. Everyone's effort made it an evening to remember. And, of course, Spare Parts was fantastic, tailoring the Programme to Nahant and the Viennese theme splendidly.

ball card The mermaid picture (with the 2 legged tail!) on the back of the card comes from the book Some Annals of Nahant (Fred Wilson, 1928).

The Dress

Katy’s dress for the evening was inspired by a gown worn by Empress Elisabeth of Austria in a portrait painted by Franz Xavier Winterhalter in 1865. The trim is still not quite finished; it has been a work in progress for about 6 years, ever since the star filled tulle was given to her by her good friend Terry Crumb. Elisabeth was famous for her long hair, quite similar to Katy’s. The hairstyle was a feat of engineering to achieve without a hairdresser!

ball card ball card

Vintage Victorian
P.O. Box 9, Nahant, Massachusetts 01908
phone: (781) 49-WALTZ (781-499-2589)

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last updated 17 august 2013/csb