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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Celebrating the 30th annual Mid-Winter Ball: The history behind the tradition

<morrow night, Saturday, Feb. 6, Carleton brings out its finery to celebrate its 30th annual Mid-Winter Ball. The event attracts over half of the Carleton student population.

“It’s one of my favorite events on campus,” said Rochelle Zheng ’12.

Chris Marshall ’10 compared it to “a cross between a Sayles dance and your senior prom – it’s an opportunity to dress up and do something fun without all the awkwardness of high school.”

Instead of the traditional single dance floor expected at a high school prom or a Sayles dance, Mid-Winter Ball has three, each with its own theme. This year, each room will represent a different season. Professional DJ Crazy Mike featuring a guest from the Twin Cities’ will host a summer themed dance in the Sayles Great Space.

In the Great Hall, the Roseville Big Band will be playing ballroom tunes in a winter wonderland, while a floor below, the Sevy Tea Room will feature the warm colors of fall and swing music provided by Lynn Deichert’s Music of Distinction.

For those desiring to learn the steps that will be featured in the Great Hall and Sevy Tea Room, a crash course in various dances will be offered Saturday afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Great Hall. One hour will be devoted to each of the following: Latin dances, ballroom and swing.

Novice dancers never fear; Zheng, a member of Carleton’s Social Dance Club and a planner of Mid-Winter Ball, assured students the event is great “because you get to dance with people who don’t necessarily come to Social Dance Club… but still want to try dancing… there’s something for everyone, whether you like social dance, swing or Sayles dances.”

Dancing begins at 9 p.m. and goes until 1 a.m. In addition to music, sweet treats will be offered at the event. Campus Activities has ordered cream puffs, cheesecake squares, and chocolate éclairs to satisfy dancers.

Other amenities tailor to the event’s formality: a shuttle bus will be provided to transport students from the far reaches of campus to Ball. Stops include Goodhue, Watson/Cassat/Myers, interest houses and others. A full schedule is available online on the Campus Activities website. A coat check will also be available.

The tradition of Mid-Winter Ball, according to college archivist Eric Hillemann, evolved from a “Viennese Ball” held on Jan. 24, 1981. The event was originally organized by Campus Activities’ Paula Armagost, fashioned after a similar dance put on at Colorado College.
The “Viennese Ball” featured “waltzes, foxtrots, polkas, wine, punch, hors d’oeuvres [and] music provided by The Carleton Orchestra,” said Hillemann.

Orchestra director Jeremy Balmuth, who had attended traditional balls in Vienna, published an article in the Carletonian that year, calling Viennese balls “a joyful occasion, but one admittedly characterized by excess… decidedly decadent and excessively fun… I can’t dance, and yet that has never inhibited me from being caught up in the magic.”

For the next few years, Carleton called the event various names, such as the “Anniversary Ball” (1985), “Starlight Ball” (1986) and “Midwinter Night’s Ball.” By 1987, the name “Mid-Winter Ball” became the official title for the Carleton tradition.

Students who have attended Mid-Winter Ball in the past praise the event’s formality.

“With the semi-formal attire and the live big bands, you almost forget that you are a college student on a college campus. It’s a wonderful escape from the Carleton bubble, even if only for a few hours,” said Marshall.

“Mid-Winter Ball is fun because you get to see people all dressed up. And the bands are awesome,” said Arpita Bhattacharyya, ’10.

Not only is it fun, but convenient as well. Campus Activities director Lee Clark called Mid-Winter Ball, “an opportunity for Carleton students to experience a semi-formal evening with their friends in a safe and fun environment without driving to the Cities or spending a lot of money.”

This year, as in the past, the event was organized by Campus Activities under the direction of Clark and Nadine Sunderland. Each student Program Assistant (PA) in the Campus Activities Office was assigned a specific job for the event, from music to food to decorations to advertising. This year’s PAs who helped plan the event are Max Davidson ’10, Heather McPherson ’10, Ellen Morehouse ’10, Janae Walton-Green ’10, Julia Baker ’12, Jonathan Figueroa ’12, Emily Winer ’12, Rochelle Zheng ’12, and Haley Johnson ’13. PAs currently off-campus who also contributed to the planning of Mid-Winter Ball include Vivian Tran ’10 and Scarlett Tse ’12.

For the PAs “Midwinter Ball provides the opportunity to gain valuable event planning experience and put their leadership skills to the test. It’s amazing how much time and effort goes into planning an event such as [this],” Clark said. Funding for Mid-Winter Ball came from CSA and Campus Activities.

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