Newport Vintage Dance Week Part IV: Mid-Nineteenth Century Ball at Ochre Court

As you may already know if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, the 1860s are my favorite period. I get super excited about them–especially the clothes! So you can imagine my absolute joy at being able to attend an 1860s ball during Newport Vintage Dance Week. But to make things even more amazingly wonderful, this particular ball was held in one of the most beautiful places we visited during the week! You can see pictures of last year’s 1860s Ochre Court Newport ball here, in an earlier post. In fact, Ochre Court is my favorite of any Newport venues I have ever entered, except maybe the Breakers… but we didn’t have a ball at the Breakers (because it is no longer open to the public, as far as I know), so for Newport 2012, Ochre Court was my top most favorite place!

Ochre Court was built in 1892 as a summer home for Ogden Goelet, a wealthy New York banker and developer, for $4.5 million. It was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, who also designed the Breakers, which is just down the street. In fact, Ochre Court is the 2nd largest Newport “cottage,” the Breakers being the largest. (All of this information came from the Newport Mansions website, which you can access by clicking the link at the beginning of the paragraph. It also has fantastic pictures, which you should check out if you’re at all interested!)

We came up the side road to enter Ochre Court. This is the side gate.
As you walk in the side gate you are greeted by the grand front drive to the right.
Looking down the main drive. Directly behind the camera is Ochre Court.
The grand main drive is just to the right. To the left is the entry to Ochre Court.
Looking up at Ochre Court. The arch at the bottom of the picture is the front entryway from the last picture.
This is the grand ballroom: the first room reached upon entering Ochre Court! It is three stories high with arched galleries on the second and third floors, which are reached by means of a fabulous red carpeted staircase (pictures of that are coming soon).
Pass through the grand ballroom and you emerge onto the back lawns which slope gently down toward the cliff and the water.

The neat thing about many of the balls at Newport is that multiple rooms on the same level of the mansions are open and available to us, and we are able to dance between rooms during the course of one dance!

This is the library, which is just off of the grand ballroom.
The grand ballroom.
Another view of dancers in the grand ballroom.
One more because it’s pretty!
This room wasn’t open last year! In my head it is the white room. It is also just off of the grand ballroom. We are dancing the Newport 2012 quadrille: Les Rats.
We’ve just finished a figure of the quadrille! Yay us!
Taking a break in the entryway.

Okay, this next bit takes a bit of explaining. Antonia expressed it very well in her post “Speed Virginia Reel at Ochre Court.” You can read the whole description by clicking the link, but here’s the short version: “The Virginia Reel is an interesting dance…there are always people who refuse to wait for the music and push the speed…Speed Virginia Reel doesn’t even try that hard, and instead strives to be insane. It was invented by teenagers a couple of months ago…and it doesn’t even pretend to be dancing to music.” Is your interest peaked?

I hope so, because it was some of the most fun we young people had at this particular ball! It included many sweeping hoop skirts showing scandalous views of ladies’ drawers as well as a slide and fall on her bottom by none other than me! Unfortauntely, there are no pictures of me actually on the floor, so you’ll have to take my word for it (and I’m sure my fellow dancers would back me up!). Lucky for me I had two factors in my favor such that I didn’t hurt myself at all: 1-I wear a pretty hefty bum pad with my 1860s clothes to help my hoop stay paralell to the floor (I’m pretty sure I landed on this, because the floor is marble, and the fall didn’t hurt) and 2-there was so much adrenaline going around that even if it did hurt I didn’t feel it…I remember lying on the floor thinking “Yikes, I am lying on the floor,” and then jumping up again and continuing the dance! This dance was so much fun I really couldn’t rule out very many pictures, so I do hope that you don’t mind seeing a lot of Speed Virginia Reel, the all new 1860s dance craze!

Hoops and tails are flying! This is part of the grand ballroom, looking toward the dining room. We stationed ourselves in an uninhabited section of the room so as not to endanger others…
Just look at those hoops flying!
The corner people dance (or run…) various things together to begin the dance.
Flying tails!
You can see the momentum in the swinging hoops!
This part of the dance is called strip the willow. It involves the top couple turning each of the people below them till they meet at the bottom…
The top couple is just beginning to run to the top to start follow the leaders.
Scandalous drawers!
Even more is showing in this picture. I think this is the highest any skirt went…
The top couple runs down the middle of the other four couples, and the other couples have to spring apart to make space!
Really, the top couple just goes all out down the middle and hopes for the best (at least in the speedy version of this dance).
This picture is pretty awesome. The wind is ruffling my sails (skirt…) and I am clearly running, as I wouldn’t be able to stand at that angle without falling over otherwise…
More obvious evidence of running…
Look at those hoops sway!
Another favorite running picture! I’m sure you can see why!
I had to include this, because look at how high my skirt was swinging! It’s pretty epic!
Run, run, run!
Clearly, there was a lot of running and momentum in this dance.
Forward and backward, all while running.
Down the middle!
Follow the leader!
This is what was happening while the top couple circled the people below them.
Evidence of my fall! You can see one of my flower clumps on the floor that’s about to be picked up so it is out of danger!
Follow the leader around the column…running as fast as possible and missing a flower clump…
We made it, corsets, falling and all! I’m obviously excited, because look at how far off the floor I am! I LOVE this picture! Don’t you?

There was nothing sedate about this dance. What else is there to say? I have more fabulous pictures from the end of this event… but I think I’ll do a second installment post about this event to share them. So stay tuned!

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