A new kind of masks

Korrie Wojack – Staff Writer

The Masquerade Ball was held in Alumni Hall last Friday, October 29. A masquerade ball is a “night time event where people get fancy, disguise themselves and have an opportunity to dance and socialize with others” according to the Campus Activities Board email inviting students to attend. Although everyone in attendance wore decorative face coverings, when the clock struck 12 there was a face reveal where all students were asked to remove their decorative masks.
As students walked up the stairs to Alumni Hall, music flooded through the open doors covered in silver streamers. Different sorts of decorative masks were waiting for those who didn’t have one. The masks students wore were varying in size, shape, and color. Some wore ornate handmade masks, others simpler and elegant lace ones. A few bore animal masks, and some were Halloween themed. Gus himself made a grand appearance, greeting people as they walked up the steps in his formal suit and red mask.
Students were invited to dance, socialize, and eat pizza to celebrate the end of the school week and the beginning of Halloweekend.
Outside the hall were photo booths set up for students to use to capture memories of the night, and many students made comments that it was nice to have a formal dance again, especially because so many students’ junior or senior proms were cancelled due to COVID. “I’m just really glad we finally get to have events like these again. It’s so fun to see everyone all dressed up. Some of my friends here are in halloween masks, while others are finally getting a chance to wear their prom dresses they never got to wear. Honestly, I think this has been one of the best events so far this year.” commented a partygoer, who in the spirit of the masquerade asked to remain anonymous.

A masked dance just in time for Halloween was the perfect touch to a quickly ending fall semester, though masquerades aren’t technically Halloween centered.
The word “masquerade” has its roots in the French word “mascarade” and the Italian word “maschera,” but masquerades likely originated on the West African coast. The African style of masquerades were used to honor ancestral spirits, celebrate important moments, and as a way to bond community members together. Similarities exist between the Nigerian Yoruba masked comedy and the Italian Commedia dell’ Arte. Masquerade first became popular in Venice, Italy and the practice of masquerade balls quickly spread throughout Europe and England in the 18th century. During the same period, African ceremonial masquerades spread to the Caribbean and southeastern United States, where it evolved into carnivals.
The masquerade balls of 18th century England sometimes honored a member of royalty or celebrated a special event. For all their carnival-like traditions, however, masquerades balls and festivals had strict rules. Costumes had to make the wearer unidentifiable completely, often accompanied by lavish costumes and make-up. Masquerade celebrations allowed participants to leave social norms and standings behind.

Men dressed as women, women as men, and there was much intermingling of social classes as the lower classes often could afford tickets to the public masquerades.
This has been the first formal dance that has been held at Gustavus since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in a way it is only fitting that it was a masquerade. There are other formal and semi-formal dances traditionally held during the year, such as the Presidents Ball, or P-Ball as nicknamed by the student body, and the homecoming dance. The homecoming dance this year was rave themed, with students wearing glow sticks and neon lights shone everywhere. The Presidents Ball is a tradition put on during the spring semester by CAB, and “is a time for the student body to celebrate the accomplishments of the year and spend time with fellow gusties” according to the CAB website.

The masquerade ball will go down in the history of Gustavus events as a success. Combining Cotton Eyed Joe, masks, fancy dresses, friends, and plenty of pizza is a true college recipe for happiness. Even with a few little hiccups here and there with the music, Gusties prevailed and just kept right on dancing and making long lasting memories with their friends.

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