ANNA KARENIN Leo Tolstoy . The ball scene.
“The ball had just begun when Kitty and her mother stepped on to the central staircase, which was bathed in light and embellished with flowers and powdered footmen in red livery. From the interior came a steady rustle of movement which filled the rooms like bees buzzing in a hive, and while they adjusted their hair in front on a mirror between the potted plants on the landing, the delicately clear sounds of the violins in the orchestra could be heard striking up the first waltz in the ballroom.”
Shey. As Silv just said there –sorry, just let me let go of her paws–I am on my 8th book and when that’s done there will have been a ball, or dance scene in six of them. I was uncertain re this latest one whether the ball would actually take place but on reflection, I am big on what ball scenes in books can offer. You can blame the scene in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenin for that. It’s not only a case in point being the first time Vronsky and Anna really eye each other up, leaving Kitty standing. The lavish description of the ball, of Kitty descending the staircase, full of starry eyed hope was like a beacon to me when I read that book. An eternity ago now but even now, I can remember it. Before that, talking balls? Well, there was Cinderella. I used the idea of Cinderella shamelessly in Splendor. The second ball scene –yes there’s two– is the big pivotal moment where she finds out the whole truth about the hero and runs, realising there’s things she can’t manage—managing things being her biggest strength and greatest flaw– and things she can’t lay on him either, leaving her glove on the stairs. Of course I thought the shoe might be a bit much, as would hamsters pulling the coach.
I’m sure you were asked but you fell under the wheels and that is why you are crushed. Sadly.
A ball also gave scope for when he loses her in a complicated dance set, mirrorring the maze of hopelessness he then lives in for months, and the contrast between this glittering world and the one facing her, if she doesn’t ‘manage’ this evening and that of her ex fiance, now begging in the gutter outside.
But the first ball scene was ideal for the hero really noticing what’s been under his nose and that’s her, as opposed to the awkward, clumsy, accident-prone, woman who has faced him as a man across a pair of duelling pistols and a chessboard. From the liveried footmen to the shining chandeliers, balls are such glittering occasions, all kinds of magic can be at work. Especially when neither partner can dance and they don’t want anyone knowing either.
I dunno dudes, you tell me. In the Viking and the Courtesan, Malice decides to confront her husband in a similar glittering scenario, after he’s set the law on her for services unrendered re a little biz she runs– a move that backfires spectacularly when, having failed to recognise her, he then kidnaps her at fork and knife-hurriedly-nicked-from-the-kitchen-point, after she tries to insist that the pillow she’s stuffed up her skirt is far more than that; all to the tune of a Mozart minuet.
‘Since you were low enough to ask us, naturally we were low enough to come.’
Miitchell Killgower cuts his’ ball’-breaking ex sister-in-law and aunt by marriage, short at the start of the ball scene in the Writer and the Rake. A ball she’s thrown in the middle of a bitter inheritance dispute, in order to expose the fact his ‘wife’ in his sham marriage has been missing presumed vanished off the face of the earth for weeks. It’s another pivotal moment where the heroine discovers that Morte, a man roughly five years older than herself is in fact her ten times great grandson and aged a thousand, and has her revolting feet admired by Francis Dashwood,—the actual founder of the Hellfire Club. Balls are also a great place to introduce real historical figures.
Again, neither hero nor heroine can dance, except the latter on a 21st century nightclub floor. But they’ve had a lot of fun learning–a good chance to sort of get together–with the help of Mitchell’s polar opposite teenage son, who he’s finally liking. Alas, all before Brittany learns from Morte, exactly what she’s doing wrong about getting back to her time. Sob, sob as the dudes would say.
Nor do balls have to be grand society affairs as in these three books. In Loving Lady Lazuli the fact the ball was set in Assembly Rooms in a small town, and held for everyone regardless of class, on Christmas Eve, was a good excuse to delve into a more rustic affair, with children jigging on the upstairs landing and farmer’s wives unpacking pot luck suppers. And the perfect scenario
for the heroine to go for broke with an I am Spartacus moment about who she really is. Or rather an ‘I am Sapphire,’ after she’s gone round nicking every thing she can lay her hands on and dump it on the floor, because the hero intends betraying her so what does it matter? It’s also the perfect scenario for him to show exactly the man he really is and finally admit his feelings for her.
There’s no grand ball in His Judas Bride either. Not in the wilds of Scotland at that time. There’s a supper party/ dance, where the heroine learns that her drunken, womanising, horror of a husband-to-be may have other sides to him–he’s an ‘awfie guid cook, when he lays aff the nips’ apparently. But there’s still no way she can marry him, after he insists not just on dancing with her but in her showing off the fine dancing skills she’s allegedly learnt in ‘Edinboro.’ With the emphasis on the word ‘allegedly’ and every step of what she’s making up, under the nose of her betrothed’s brother, a man nothing gets past, reminding her of the abuse she suffered for years in a prison cell, she also learns it’s time to run, as in ‘now’,
thus setting up the rest of the book.
SO yes, after much debate the current WIP does have a ball scene. Why the uncertainty? Well, that it’s being held in an abandoned house, by two people on the run and even the food on the guests’ plates is of course
nicked and not a bowl matches a plate, should be answer enough. Also I didn’t want to go for another world crashing in ruins ball scene. But equally, if a world is going to crash…….
, where better to let it fall than on a ballroom floor?
So, there you go, balls in books, balls in films. From Scarlett O’Hara leaping forward to….raise money for the ‘noble’ cause., with Rhett Butler, Anna and the King of Siam, to Maria getting up close and personal with Captain Von Trapp–AND, let’s not forget one I forgot until Rene reminded me in the comments, Jezebel where Bette Davis loses her lover over a red dress. Even if there’s no ball, there’s dancing, the romance of Dirty Dancing, of Strictly Ballroom.
So come on folks, tell me your fav ball or dance scene that way?
Oh come on dudes, just crack open the voddie and get on with the cossack dance will you?