Thoughts on the Snowflake Ball

Note: I decided to write this blog post after I realized I was practically writing a novel on a Plurk thread about last night's Snowflake Ball. :-) I have moved some of that content to this post.

Last night was my cousin Eva's 5th Annual Snowflake Ball. 5 events over 4 years. I still can't believe it. It does not seem possible, it really doesn't. I remember the first one in 2007 so clearly and for those of us that were there...I think we all feel like we've grown up and lived several Second Lives since that time. I've been very pensive since last night, as the event stirred a lot of feelings, emotions, memories and thoughts for me.

First of all, I am so thrilled that the attending guests (most of them) had a really lovely time. There were a lot of Oldbies there, but also newer residents who have never attended a Formal Ball until last night. I saw, and have spoken to, so many people that reveled in the Ball. Hearing that, knowing that means everything to both Eva and me, because that is why we *do* things like this. It's *always* been the reason why we do things like this. Really, honestly and truly! It makes us feel good when we know you are feeling good! I get a "bonus high" when I can share classical music with you. I love it when people hear a song that they love, or that they hear a song that is new to them. Radio Riel was born out of these reasons!

We used to do Formal Balls on a regular basis 4 years ago in Caledon. But, we stopped. It's been several years since I have done one. There are several reasons as to why this happened. The first reason is that the growth of Caledon and the huge influx of residents turned Formal Balls into events at which the percentage of guests that were Newbies was far greater than that of Oldbies. We ended up with ballrooms full of intimidated and confused guests and not enough people to patiently educate them about how the events worked. And many of the Oldbies sunk into private IMs with their friends, and they did not socialize in chat. I am not judging the Oldbies on this. I was one of them! Unfortunately, this resulted in lots of new folks feeling overwhelmed by the event and like they were being ignored by the other guests. Hello ire and complaints!

One of the biggest reasons I stopped doing Formal Balls was a more practical reason. Formal Balls are, by far, the most difficult events at which to play music. I wish there was a way I could illustrate this better, but all I can say is that you feel like you have been run over by a steamroller, multiple times, by the conclusion of the event. I am not exaggerating. Ask the other Radio Riel Presenters, they'll tell you all about it  ;-) . Every time one of my Presenters did their first Formal Ball, I warned them as much as I could prior to the event, and they all listened to me and believed me. Even with that, they would come to me after the event, stunned, in shock and wiped out. And I would hug them and say, "The first time is always the hardest sweetie!" It's something that you have to experience to truly understand.

Put those two things together. People complaining and disliking the Formal Balls plus the events being the hardest to do. When you end up in that place, why continue them? It turned something that started out with joy and good intentions into a complete slog. Oldbies, do you think I've nailed this? Are there any other things that you think contributed to the demise of Formal Balls?

Back to the topic of the resurrection of the Formal Ball! Last night was a success due to several reasons. Enough time has passed, and enough new people have arrived in the Steamlands, so that the "bad reputation" of the Formal Ball has faded away. Another reason is...all of you! Last night, you were all so positive and so open and just having fun! The bottom line is that events are fun because the guests make them fun. And finally, the foundation, Eva and me. Eva and I are literally the most experienced people on the grid re: Formal Balls. She and I have worked 100s of hours on them over the last 4 years. This experience showed last night in how smoothly it went logistically, in spite of bumps, like the agent limit surprise. No one else can do a Formal Ball like Eva and I can. That's not arrogance, it's just fact.

I have to give some props to a few other people who have what it takes to pull off Formal Balls, because I don't want you to think that I am ignoring your contributions and skills! Most of them, shockingly, are Radio Riel Presenters  ;-) . Lady Soliel Snook is, in my opinion, the only other person on the grid that can do what I do at Formal Balls, and that is to be the Music Presenter and a Hostess at the same time. In all honesty, it's not fair to expect someone to perform both roles, and the fact that she can is amazing. Both Diamanda Gustafson and Edward Pearse have the skills, experience and stamina to give you the highest quality musical experience at a Formal Ball. Lady Elspeth Woolley is a superb event Hostess for Formal Balls.

I am mentioning these people for a reason. I made the claim above that Eva and I are the best. I challenge and invite you to join us at the "top". I want to train interested parties in how to host a Formal Ball, and to get you the experience that will make you the best too. I (and I think Eva will agree) have no need to be Queen of the Formal Ball. Do you know how much I would love to attend one as a guest? To not have to work? I'd love you forever.  :-)

I am currently working on a presentation, that can be delivered "live" or on demand on the web, to educate guests about the Formal Ball. I want to demystify it and enable all guests to relax and just enjoy it! Educating the guests prior to, and during, these events is KEY. It makes all the difference. I am covering everything, including Dance Cards and tips and recommendations so you can have the most optimal experience possible.

The experience. That is really what Formal Balls are all about. We've learned over the years how to create an environment that makes guests feel transported to another time/place. We've also learned that we had to tweak a lot of things to make it all work in SL. Trying to do a "literal Victorian Ball" simply won't work.

I should probably mention the genesis of the Formal Ball in the Steamlands. *clears her throat* It's all my fault. Way back at the end of 2006, a small group of Caledonians, which included me and Eva, started brainstorming the concept of a Victorian Social Season. As music was my thing, I really wanted to use it to create the experience of a Victorian Ball. I developed the Dance Card concept and procedures. Our first try with Dance Cards was a scripted system by Sir ZenMondo Wormser. 40 scripted Dance Cards sitting in a sim equaled crash, crash, crash! I then developed the notecard Dance Card. So, guess who you have to blame for Dance Cards?  Me.  :-)  Several people have asked me today for a copy of the Dance Card, so I will include an example at the end of this post.

Last night's Snowflake Ball was wonderful. It felt like renaissance for this type of event in the Steamlands. I'm just so happy you all enjoyed it. It was wonderful to be back in action with Eva, just as we used to be, the unstoppable Social Duchesses. The old. The new. I loved seeing people from all over the Steamlands. We all belong to our individual communities, yes, but whether you realize it or not, we also belong to a greater community. This makes us all neighbors.

Nothing ever stays the same and Second Life puts changes into overdrive. I don't want to "make things like the good old days". I embrace now, and I'm ready to make Formal Balls a part of the Steamlands as they exist today. Let's make them happen together! See you on the Ballroom Floor!

~ The Nightingale

Note: This is the dance card from the last Formal Ball I hosted. It was the final event in my sim, Caledon Carntaigh. The date on it is November 22, 2008.

Welcome to the Tulips in the Snow Ball at Coughton Court in Caledon Carntaigh!

This is a formal, Victorian Ball - the first 15 minutes of the Ball is the time to mingle and greet other guests, and it is also the opportunity to select your dance partners for the evening.

Traditionally, people in the Victorian era danced with many partners throughout a dance.  It was considered proper for a gentleman to ask a lady for one dance during the evening, unless he was her escort.  In that case he could ask for up to three dances from the lady that he escorted to the event.  Anything more than either of these scenarios was considered highly improper!

Tonight's Ball consists of 7 separate dances of about 15 minutes each, with an announcement near the end of the dance to allow you to locate your next dance partner.  We encourage you to spend the evening dancing in the way you are most comfortable.

You can:
    * Dance like a traditional Victorian, with a different partner for every dance; use the "Dance Card" at the bottom of this notecard to record your partners.
    * Ask a partner to dance on the spur of the moment if you do not have a pre-booked partner.
    * Remain with the same partner throughout the night.
    * Ladies may ask gentlemen to dance.
    * People of the same sex are more than welcome to dance together.


4:00pm - 4:15pm - Arrival, greetings and dance partner selections

Dance #1, 4:15pm - 4:30pm - Klaus Wulfenbach

Dance #2, 4:30pm - 4:45pm - Elrik Merlin

Dance #3, 4:45pm - 5:00pm - JJ Drinkwater

Dance #4, 5:00pm - 5:15pm - Mavromichali Szondi

Dance #5, 5:15pm - 5:30pm - Hotspur Otoole

Dance #6, 5:30pm - 5:45pm - Steadman Kondor

Dance #7, 5:45pm - 6:00pm - Klaus Wulfenbach


So glad the ball was a success. I would love to have been there.
I was amongst the flood of newbies who sat confused and intimidated a few years back. It's is sad that we lost the joy of it back then and I think you have got the whole dilemma in a nutshell. Fingers crossed for the future.
Long live the formal ball!
Serra Anansi said…
I am just beside myself because I missed the ball. RL work took a lot out of me this week and I had only intended on taking a short nap before logging in to attend, but when I woke up at 3am EST (apparently having slept through my alarm) it was all over so I crawled back to bed... *sad*