Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

TeslaCon, Saturday, part 2 “If there won't be dancing, I won't come to your revolution."

After the Bobbins dinner, we went to the “Grand Ball.” We were somewhat pleased to hear that the first set, the “classic” section, would be recorded music, mostly by the First Brigade Band. Much as we love the First Brigade Band, it must be admitted that they are more of a concert band than a dance band, and picking out danceable pieces from their repertoire can be a job. So this proved. The first waltz played was a concert piece with a wandering tempo that proved very difficult to dance to. There were a couple of schottisches—nothing intrinsically wrong with the schottische, we just don’t care for it--, and it turns out people can schottische to a march melody as well.

We were able to get in a waltz, to “The Blue Danube,” and a polka, to “Feuerfest,” but once the set works through two long group dances, “The Bobbins Bob” and “Excursion Train” a.k.a. “The Choo Choo Dance”, there isn’t much of the set left.

Now, the website blurb for the ball said: “The Ball will happen in three (3) sections. Each section will have between 7-10 songs. Waltz’s, Polka’s and Reels will be prominent. Instructions to these dances will also be available before Saturday night.” (sic). After the first section, the Ball was given over to live performers, whom I believe were (and here I’m relying on memory so this may not be definitive), Lord Monty, “unique ‘steampunk funk’/Victorian rap”; Frenchy and the Punk, “Imagine Django Reinhardt, Johnny Ramone, Siouxsie Sioux and Edith Piaf jamming together at an event hosted by Tim Burton and Nikola Tesla”; and, I think, Eli August & the Abandoned Buildings, who, from the somewhat turgid prose description, appears to be rather a folk singer type. I’m sure they are all fine musicians, and it’s great of TeslaCon to furnish Steampunk performers with a venue, but, as one critic later said, “What parts of ‘grand’ and ‘ball’ did they not get?”

Now, Georgie and I are satisfied if we can have a waltz and a polka, and so, when the music switched to a modern beat, we retired and found some chairs overlooking the atrium where we held court and chatted with friends, intending to drop in on the Steerage Ball when it started at 10:30. Thus, we were in a good position to observe the breakout of what I have to call the “Dance, Dance Revolution.”

There was a flurry of activity near the atrium stairs, and we were somewhat bemused to see a small woman in a green Empire dress and matching hat climb onto a chair and harangue the people around her, declaring a “revolution,” and that the atrium floor was about to be liberated in the name of dancing, as what was going on in the Grand Ball was not the promised waltzes, polkas, or reels. Her escort, a slim man with a gray goatee and military coat, declared that he had a First Brigade Band CD in his car and went out to get it. A CD player which had been set up near the front doors playing ambient music (mostly the “Downton Abbey” theme) was requisitioned and relocated to the impromptu dance floor.

We watched this with considerable interest, not only for the amusement factor, but because there appeared simultaneously to be some kind of flap on involving hotel or con security or both, with serious-looking men rushing about checking doors and inside the nearby function rooms. However, to the credit of both the con and the hotel, no one attempted to interfere with this impromptu event. By the time the music was going, there were a hundred people in the area, some just to see, but others eager to dance. The recording started off with a waltz (“Beautiful Dreamer,”) which was restarted and Georgie and I joined in for this slow dance. Then, “Reel! Reel!” young people, who had perhaps learned the Virginia Reel that day but not had a chance to dance it at the Ball, called. The Reel was started, then over again, the organizers having declared they would play through that CD as many times as people cared to dance.

Now, it must be admitted, that, as a fraction of the people attending the con and the Ball, these people were in a distinct minority, but I think it was a minority that had right on their side, and whose opinion should be respected. Some took time out of their convention to learn to dance, and others just wanted what was promised—waltzes (plural), polkas (plural), and reels.

By this time it was after 10:30PM. We had by this time seen signs indicating that the Steerage Ball was being moved to the Grand Ballroom. However, inspection proved that the Grand Ball musicians were still holding forth, which told me, given how long it takes a band to set up and tune, that there wouldn’t be any Steerage Ball music until more like 11:30PM, so we called it a night.

I have no idea what logistical issues caused the relocation of the Steerage Ball, but I have to consider the circumstances unfortunate.

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Tags: steampunk, teslacon
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