Nahant Victorian Dance Weekend
Schedule of Events and Useful Information
Please join us in celebrating
the Town of Nahant’s historic past
19th CENTURY BALL
on August 10, 2013, in the lovely
Nahant Town Hall, 334 Nahant Road
This year’s theme is An evening in Vienna
Some dances will be called during the Ball
such as our own Nahant Quadrilles and Contra Dances.
Other dances, including the basics
of period waltz and polka,
will be taught at the afternoon dance workshop.
No pervious vintage dance esperience is necessary.
Formal or semi-formal Dress is requested
Period dress of the 1850s through 1890s
(civilian or military) is encouraged
Children (if well behaved and supervised) are welcome!
Spectators are also encouraged! The view is lovely from the balcony!
There is no admission fee for spectators,
although donations are welcomed.
Schedule of Events
THE DANCE WORKSHOP
The workshop will take place at the Nahant Town Hall, 334 Nahant Road, Saturday August 10th
from 3:00 to 5:00 pm. The instructor will be Ben Bishop, host of the Ball.
He will be teaching the basics of Nineteenth Century dance, including
The Nahant Quadrilles and some basic waltz and polka; the level of
instruction will be tailored to the needs of the participants. Comfortable
clothes and flexible-soled shoes are
recommended for the workshop. There is no charge for the workshop, all are welcome.
THE VICTORIAN BALL
The Ball will commence at 7:00 pm, at the Town Hall, a beautiful Turn of the
Century building. Dressing rooms will be available and the building will be open from 5:30 pm for those who wish to
change into their finery at the hall. This year’s ball is being set in Vienna of the second half of the
19th Century. Come and relive the glory days
when Nahant was a popular Summer destination for those wishing to escape the heat of the city to
the strains of a Viennese waltz. Live music will be
provided by Spare Parts. A few dances will be taught during the Ball
including the Nahant Quadrilles and Contra Dances. Formal or semi-formal attire is requested, period attire
of the 1860s through 1890s is encouraged (evening wear, day wear, military wear or costumes appropriate to the theme).
Light refreshments will be provided at the intermission.
The music for the Ball will be provided by Spare Parts, Bill Matthiessen Liz Stell and
Eric Buddington. We will be dancing to music of the period. Many of the tunes come from sheet music
from the collection of the Nahant Historical Society dedicated to Nahant,
such as the Nahant Polka and Nahant Quadrilles. If you are interested in enjoying the music ahead of
time, we have produced the Dancing by the Shore CD with Spare Parts
and the Historical Society.
VICTORIAN TEA AND CONCERT
This year we will be hosting a concert with Spare Parts on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 pm.
The music will focus on Waltzing Through Time. The concert will be held in the lovely Serenity Room at Nahant
Community Center (the former valley Road School), 41 Valley Road, Nahant, MA. Note: There is no on-street
parking around the hall. Parking will be available nearby.
Frequently Asked Questions
DO I NEED TO BRING A PARTNER?
Though a partner of one's own is a help at a ball please don't let the lack of one keep you away.
During the ball folks mix and dance with many different partners throughout the evening. We also do not Gender
Balance so singles will not be placed on a waiting list. Many singles, both male and female, attend the ball.
Proper 19th Century etiquette encourages dancers to
dance the first and last dance with the person they came with, but to dance with many different partners during the
rest of the evening.
CAN I JUST COME AND WATCH?
The ball is great fun to watch (almost as fun as actually dancing). There is a great view from
the Balcony, something of a Busby Berkeley experience during the Quadrilles and Contra Dances. There is no fee for
watching but donations are appreciated especially if one wishes to partake in refreshments.
CAN I BRING MY CHILDREN?
Children are welcome at the ball if they are accompanied by an adult, and are well behaved and
supervised during the Ball. Younger children, if they wish to participate in the dancing, will be
admitted for a reduced fee.
WHAT TO WEAR? (or do I have to wear Victorian clothes?)
The perennial question that confronts one when getting ready for a ball is "What
shall I wear?" For our vintage Balls we encourage our patrons to wear period style dress, or dress that
is evocative of the period or theme if they wish but modern formal or semi-formal wear is also equally
acceptable. Please don’t let the lack of period clothing keep you away from the ball. The main thing is
for you to come and enjoy the evening. For this Ball a modern full length gown, full enough in the
skirt to allow freedom of movement would be just fine. For the Gentlemen a suit and tie is also an
acceptable alternative to white tie and tails or a tuxedo. For those who wish to recreate the mid (1850-60s)
or late (1880-90s) Victorian Era we have created a guide with illustrations of some of the styles worn during this
time, please visit the Fashion Section for detailed information about
proper period dress and the Costume Timeline for a selection of
evening fashions 1850s-1890s.
If you have questions about what to wear don’t hesitate to contact us at:
or call Katy at (781) 49-WALTZ (781-499-2589).
DINING &: LODGING
For those of you coming in from out of town we have a block of rooms reserved (until July 9) at the Comfort Inn, 14 Hill St., Woburn, MA.
781-933-5363 (ask for the “Nahant Victorian Day Weekend” group rate). We have a page of
Dining & Lodging recommendations.
Some Background on Nahant’s History
as a Summer Resort
In the 19th Century Nahant was a popular and elegant Summer resort destination for those
who wanted to escape the heat of the city. Sadly, the Nahant Hotel burned in 1860; none of
Nahant’s grand hotels remain today. During the Nahant Ball weekend we are trying to recapture
the elegance of Nahant’s heyday.
VIEW OF NAHANT HOTEL
from Ballou's Pictorial, July 21, 1855
There are few watering-places in the United States more widely known than Nahant. Few
strangers come to our metropolis, in the Summer season, without paying it a visit. It is
almost like going to sea to visit the extremity of the peninsula, which pushes its bold front
far out into the ocean, and breasts the Atlantic surges which dash continuously against its
iron base. The brief voyage thither in the steamboat is one of the most delightful trips that
can be taken. It gives new life to the feeble frame, to be wafted on the deck of the Nelly
Baker, Captain Rowell, from the warm atmosphere of the inner bay to the gloriously cool
surface of the open sea, and to see before you the long rocky peninsula dotted with pleasant
summer residences, stretching far out from the mainland. But many give the preference to the
land route; the drive across the beaches, with a fine level floor of sand for the horses'
feet, and the rollers curving in incessantly on the seaward side, rendering it a most
delightful excursion. Nahant is by no means an arid waste of rock and sand however. The
variety of scenery comprised within its limits is a feature in which it has the advantage of
most seaside resorts. Right in the centre of Nahant proper, where the surface sinks into a
deep hollow, there is a green oasis of waving trees, and gardens, and flowers, and fruits,
which is quite as rural as many a rustic dale a thousand miles away from the seaboard. Hence
Nahant has for more than forty years been a favorite resort, and representatives from almost
every state in the Union have been found here in the summer season. Hitherto the hotel has
always been well patronized, but although well kept by Mr. Drew, it was not extensive enough
for the accommodation of the public. Col. Stevens, of the Revere, so soon as he came into
possession of it, enlarged and fitted it up throughout in the most sumptuous manner. It now
possesses every requirement of comfort and luxury. It is provided with a costly apparatus for
warming the apartments, so that now the guests are no longer are no longer obliged to take
wing for the city so soon as there is an easterly spell of weather. Thus the season at Nahant
begins early and ends late. The house is thronged with company, the table is liberally
catered for, and within doors everything is as agreeable as the scenery is attractive without.
Our representation gives a fine view of this pleasant hotel.
Here is a short article written by Ben and Katy Bishop, published in
Nahant’s Harbor Review newspaper about a previous
year’s ball (almost all of it applies to the current event):
Victorian Day Ball
During the late 19th Century Nahant was the resort community of Boston's
high society; each summer the elite of Boston would spend their vacations enjoying Nahant's
cool summer breezes. Many stayed in their own, private, summer cottages while others
enjoyed a stay at the Nahant Hotel; in either case, summer evenings were usually spent at
elegant evening dances and Balls providing a venue for all to enjoy music and the company
Each summer for the past nine years, we have been holding the Nahant
Victorian Day Ball as an attempt to recapture those wonderful events from Nahant's heyday
as a resort community. We see the evening as an opportunity to dress up and dance the way
they would have in the 1890s; an opportunity to have fun and see for ourselves a small
portion of what life was like in the days before radio, TV or even recorded music was common.
This year the Ball will be held on Saturday July 7th, from 7:30 to 11pm
at the Town Hall. The music for the evening will be provided by Spare Parts, an
ensemble experienced in both dance and “vintage” music appropriate for the evening. They
will feature several local tunes, written in the 19th Century, such as the Nahant Waltz
and the Nahant March. And once again our caterers’ will provide a sumptuous
assortment of refreshments for everyone.
But a dance is more than the hall, the music, or the refreshments; the
people who attend the Ball are its very soul. This year we hope to attract the "dance-shy"
by holding an afternoon workshop, on the day of the ball, that will cover many of the
actual dances for that evening including The Nahant Quadrilles a figured dance
that was written in Nahant during the 19th century. Give it a try and be ahead of the so-
called “experienced” dancers at the Ball itself.
If you are not even willing to give that a try, we invite you to be a
spectator. The Town Hall has a wonderful balcony from which to view the Ball; the
beautiful gowns worn by the ladies are as much a joy to watch as they are to dance with.
Proceeds from the Ball benefit the Nahant Historical Society, a worthy
organization dedicated to holding on to Nahant’s place in history.
For further information, please contact Katy or Ben Bishop at 781-499-2589 or e-mail
we look forward to seeing you at the ball!