nahant ball

Nahant Victorian Dance Weekend

2017 Nahant Schedule Overview

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Thursday, August 10

    2 to 4 pmSewing CircleBishop Home
6:00 to 11:00 pmFormal Dinner and Dancing
with the Nahant Society Orchestra featuring Dan Gabel
Nahant Country Club

Friday, August 11

10 am to 12 noonCostume Workshop
with Sue Fischer (small fee; kit available)
Nahant Knights of Columbus
1:00 to 3:00 pmDance Class: The Black Bottom
with Idy Codington
Nahant Knights of Columbus
3:30 to 4:45 pmDance Class: Pivots Class
with Jeanette Watts
Nahant Knights of Columbus
7 to 10:30 pmSilent Film with organist Jeff RapsissNahant Knights of Columbus

Saturday, August 12

10 am to 12 noonVintage Bazaar
25 Pleasant Street, Nahant
1:30-2:45 pmDance Class
Nahant Town Hall
3:00-4:15 pmBeginner Dance Workshop, Ben BishopNahant Town Hall
7:30-11:00 pmGrand Ball: An Evening in Vienna
with Spare Parts
Nahant Town Hall

Sunday, August 13

1 to 5 pmAfternoon Tea, Concert and Promenade
Nahant Village Church
1 to 2:30 pmConcert: From the Stage to the Dance Hall—dance tunes from popular theatre
with Spare Parts
Nahant Village Church
2:30 to 4 pmFormal Afternoon TeaNahant Village Church
4 to 5 pmInformal Dancing with Spare PartsNahant Village Church
5 to 6:30 pmVictorian Promenade to East PointNahant Village Church

Monday, August 14

10 amOptional Monday Outing
Boston, MA
1 to 2:30 pmTour of Gibson House MuseumBeacon Street, Boston, MA
3 to 5 pmSwan Boat Rides and Promenade in the Boston Public Garden

If you are interested in buying some period style fabrics we suggest you head over to Zimman’s fabric store in Lynn for some shopping. For those of you unfamiliar with Zimman’s, it has an impressive array of high-end decorator fabrics, silks, linens, wools, and cottons, perfect for period costuming. Their basement clearance section can offer some huge discounts.


2017 Nahant Victorian Dance Weekend Schedule

Thursday, August 10, Nahant, MA.

sewing Sewing Circle: Last Minute Fixes
Costume Repair and Finishing with Katy Bishop & Sue Fischer, 2:00 - 3:30p
Bishop home

Bring your unfinished projects, fitting problems, and questions to this informal, hands-on session. If there are gents in the house, maybe we’ll even learn how to tie a bow tie or cravat! Period hairstyle advice will also be available if you need to create a hairstyle for tonight’s dinner dance. Katy’s extensive costume resource library will also be available for research. Please let us know in advance if you will be attending.
Formal Dinner and Dancing with Dan Gabel and the Nahant Society Orchestra
at the Nahant Country Club, 6:30 - 11:00p
280 Nahant Rd, Nahant, MA 01908

nahant ball Our formal Dance Holiday begins with a wonderful repast followed by dancing as we meet new friends and catch up with old ones. Before dinner, enjoy the sunset from the piazza or stroll in the garden while sipping a cocktail; arrive at 6:30 for cocktails, 6pm if you need to change into your finery, dinner will be served at 7:00p.
We’ll dance the night away to the fabulous live music by Dan Gabel and the Nahant Society Orchestra nahant ball playing Ragtime and Jazz for your dancing pleasure. Those of you who attended the Providence dance week last year will remember Dan and his authentic Jazz Age sound from the gala 1920s opening ball at the Biltmore hotel.
The musical program will begin with turn-of-the-century tunes during dinner, and gradually progress through the 1910s and 1920s, concluding with some hot jazz to lift your spirits. Suggested attire is formal evening wear of any era, with an emphasis on turn of the century through 1920s dress if you so desire.
(Hors d’oeuvres, dinner, cash bar)

Friday, August 11, Nahant, MA
all events at the Nahant Knights of Columbus
17 Relay Yard, Nahant, MA 01908

Costume Class: Ribbon Flower Hair Ornament, with Sue Fischer, 10:00a - 12:00n
Make a new accessory for the ball!
Each person will create a ribbon flower (2" - 3" diameter) and leaf assemblage and attach it to a hair clip or comb (or pin if you like).

Class fee is $7 and includes 1-1/2" ribbon to make one large flower and leaf, crinoline for mounting, and the clip, comb, or pin. When registering for the class, please specify your choice of ribbon color (pink, lilac, peach, or blue) and whether you would like a clip, comb, or pin. Please bring your own sewing supplies (scissors, small needles, and heavy thread).
We encourage you to bring additional trims to decorate your hair ornament; feathers, lace appliques, extra ribbon, decorative buckles or brooches, tassels, etc.


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Dance Class: The Black Bottom with Idy Codington, 1:00 - 3:00 pm
In the afternoon Idy will lead us in her ever popular Black Bottom choreography. Idy is delighted to share the choreography of the dance that people of the 1920s thought would outlast the Charleston... the extremely popular Black Bottom. This fast, energetic and fabulously fun dance was taught to Idy in almost thirty years ago by Warren Hayes, founding member of England’s Jiving Lindyhoppers. We have a two hour slot to learn it on Friday afternoon and we will find time and space to dance it together during the weekend. Come prepared to yell OOO, EEE, AAH, OHHH during the poses and get set to dance in a way that would scandalize people from the 19th century. Comfortable clothes and flexible-soled shoes are recommended for the class.
Dance Class: Pivots with Jeanette Watts, 3:15 - 4:30 pm
More details coming soon. Comfortable clothes and flexible-soled shoes are recommended for the class.

Silent Film, 7:00 - 10:30p
nahant ball After dinner on your own, we’ll meet back at the Knights of Columbus Hall for a silent film. Upon arrival you can grab a drink and snack and enjoy a lovely view of the sunset over Boston from the gazebo. The film will be “Zaza” with Gloria Swanson (1923), with live organ nahant ballacompaniment by Jeff Rapsiss. Mr. Rapsis recently scored this for the film’s re-release on DVD by Kino Lorber. After the film we will have dancing to recorded music.
Zaza (1923) is a story about famed soubrette Zaza (Gloria Swanson) who dreams of performing in Paris and falling in love. She has her eye on patron of the arts Bernard Dufresne (H.B. Warner) but her drunk Aunt Rosa (Lucille La Verne) is trying to persuade her niece to snag Duke de Brissac (Ferdinand Gottschalk) instead (after all he has a nice wine cellar!). Zaza is a temperamental star, quick to bouts of anger and loves to drive her rival soubrette Florianne (Mary Thurman) mad with jealousy. Both Zaza and Florianne want Bernard but what neither of them knows is that he’s married and unavailable. However, Bernard can’t help himself and gives into Zaza’s charm. She wins him over at her French chateau where she is recovering after a fall.
(excerpt from a synopsis at Outofthepastblog)

Saturday, August 12, Nahant, MA.

Vintage Bazaar, 10 am - 12 noon
Location TBD

We will shop ’til we drop at the vintage bazaar. We always have a wide array of vintage items for your shopping pleasure. In the past we have had period clothing from the 19th and early twentieth centuries, jewelry, hats, books, sewing trims, shoes, and modern reproduction clothing. Let us know if you wish to reserve a table ($5 fee per table). Email us if you only need a partial table.

Reserve a Table


Dance Class: Mazourka with Jeanette Watts, 1:30 - 2:45p
Learn the basic travelling step for a Mazourka, and several variations. There will be a Mazourka on the programms for Saturday’s Ball..


Dance Class: Ballroom Basics with Ben & Katy Bishop, 3:00 - 4:15p
Nahant Town Hall, 334 Nahant Road, Nahant

The pre-ball beginner workshop will introduce the figures of the Nahant Quadrille, a contra dance called Trip to Nahant, and we’ll go over the basics of waltz and polka for beginners. This class is designed for ball attendees who need a basic refresher just before the evening’s ball. Comfortable clothes and flexible-soled shoes are recommended for the class.
The Grand Ball: An Evening in Vienna at the Town Hall, 7:30 - 11:00p
nahant ball Enjoy this evening of 19th century dance and music evoking the Belle Epoque Vienna of Strauss & Lehar, plus a scrumptious offering of refreshments, at the historic Town Hall. Music will be by Spare Parts; they will welcome Larry Unger as an additional “Spare Part” tonight! nahant ballSpare Parts is honored to be joined by Larry Unger on bass. Larry is a talented multi-instrumentalist and composer. Liz, Bill and Eric include many of his tunes in their waltz repertoire.
Dances will be a mix of Set Dances, the Nahant Quadrilles, Waltzes, Polkas, and Galops from the second half of the 19th century. There will be a dance card, but there will also be many extra dances not on the card. Suggested attire is evening wear 1860-1900; this is a good venue to accommodate a hoop skirt if you’ve been waiting for the opportunity. Changing space will be available.
(Savory & sweet refreshments, punch, fruit, home-made sorbet)

Sunday, August 13, Nahant, MA.
Nahant Village Church, 27 Cliff St, Nahant

nahant ball From the Stage to the Dance Hall—dance tunes from popular theatre
Live Concert with Spare Parts, 1:00 - 2:30p

After a morning of shopping, sightseeing, or sleeping-in, we will conclude the Nahant portion of the weekend with a relaxing afternoon, starting with a concert by Spare Parts featuring music from the dance hall era.
Some popular dance tunes got their start in the theater. A few came directly, as with dance tunes in Offenbach’s operettas. Others were cut-and-pasted into quadrille format. In the dance craze of the 1900s, dance rhythms made their way into many shows and popular tunes. nahant teaSet aside your dance shoes and let Spare Parts (Liz Stell, Bill Matthiesen, and Eric Buddington) take you on a trip through theatrical history.
Formal Tea 2:30 - 4:00p
After the concert, we’ll enjoy a Victorian Formal Tea with John Burrow’s famous scones with home-made jams and fresh whipped cream! To accmpany the scones we will serve hot tea, with several choices of fresh-brewed black and flavored teas, ice cold lemonade, along with finger sandwiches and fresh fruit.
nahant tea
Informal Dancing, 4:00 - 5:00p
After tea, Spare Parts will return with a program of 19th & early 20th century tunes for dancing.
Victorian Promenade,
5:00 - 6:30p (approx.)

The day will conclude with a seaside promenade to East Point, the former site of the famous Nahant Hotel. There you can marvel at almost 360-degree views of the rocky shore, open ocean, Boston skyline, lightouses, and more. We ask that everyone remove their belongings from the venue before the promenade.

nahant ball

Monday, August 14, Nahant, MA.

Museum Tour and Boston Public Garden, tours at 1 and 2 pm

nahant tea In the afternoon we will meet for tours at 1:00 and 2:00 pm in Boston at the Gibson House museum; they are opening specially to give us a private tour. The Gibson House Museum is an historic house museum, located at 137 Beacon Street in the Boston’s Back Bay, preserves the 1860 Victorian rowhouse occupied by three generations of the Gibson family. The Gibson family had a summer house in Nahant, which is now a privately owned estate near East Point. After the tour we will stroll in the Boston Public Garden, where we can enjoy the gardens and ride the famous Swan Boats, which have been in operation since 1877.
On-street parking might be available, or the Boston Common garage is a short walk. You might also take the subway to the Arlington Street Stop on the Green line.

Museum Tour Registration

Time & number of tickets:


Our events will be taking place in 4 of Nahant’s many historic venues, we will enjoy the town’s lovely scenic views:

The Nahant Country Club

The Nahant Country Club (280 Nahant Road) is housed in the former Frederick Tudor Homestead, built in 1824-25. It became the Nahant Club in 1889 for the use of Nahant’s fashionable Summer colony. It is now a venue for weddings and other special events, and has tennis courts on the grounds. The building is air conditioned. There is a large, free, parking lot.

tudor residence

Tudor Homestead ca. 1890

The Nahant Knights of Columbus

The Nahant Knights of Columbus (17 Relay Yard,) is located on the shore with a lovely veranda and lawn with gazebo that overlooks Lynn Harbor and the Boston skyline where you’ll see a spectacular sunset. The building is air-conditioned. There is a large, free, parking lot.

tudor residence

view from the veranda

The Nahant Town Hall (1912)

The Nahant Town Hall (1912), 334 Nahant Road, has been the home of the Nahant Victorian Ball since it began over two decades ago. This 1912 building has a lovely main hall with large Palladian windows on each side to take advantage of cooling sea breezes. There is a parking lot and on-street parking.

town hall

Nahant Town Hall ca. 1920

The Nahant Village Church

the oldest church in Nahant. Sunday services were held as early as 1820 in a small stone school-house. The first church, called the Nahant Church, was built in 1832 as a "Summer Church" for those from Boston who spent their summers in Nahant. Services were held from the first Sunday in July through Labor Day. Ministers from the Boston area came to preach, including Rev. Phillips Brooks, rector of Trinity Church in Boston and author of a favorite Christmas Carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The Nahant Church was badly damaged in a storm in the 1850s and was replaced in 1868 by the granite and wood main sanctuary that is in use today.

village church

East Point

East Point

East Point ca. 1900



Spare Parts

spare parts The music for the Nahant events will be provided by Spare Parts: Bill Matthiessen, Liz Stell, and Eric Buddington. On piano and flute, Bill and Liz play romantic couples dances, hot contras, and historically accurate programs for Regency (Jane Austen era), Victorian (1860s), Gilded Age (1890s) and Ragtime. Argentine tangos, milongas, and vals are a special passion of theirs. Liz and Bill usually play as a trio with violin.
Our Spare Part for the weekend, Eric Buddington, switches effortlessly between fiddle and violin. He excels at Argentine tangos, waltzes, and milongas; he also joins Spare Parts for Regency balls, Ragtime balls, and English country dances as well as spare parts contras and concerts. He performs with on The Regency Ballroom and Returning Heroes CDs. Formerly (and occasionally still) with the Flying Garbanzos, Eric also performs with several other ensembles.
Larry Unger will be joining Spare Parts on Saturday evening playing the bass.
              --More information at Spare Parts homepage.
We will be dancing to music of the period. Many of the tunes come from sheet music dedicated to Nahant, such as the Nahant Polka and Nahant Quadrilles. If you are interested in enjoying the music ahead of time, we have produced the Dancing by the Shore CD with Spare Parts.



There are no hotels on Nahant itself, these are the two closest hotels and a B & B with easy access to Nahant:

  • Hotel Room Block:
    We have a room block reserved at a nearby hotel for the dance weekend. You can make your reservations by using the EVENT CODE: "Nahant Victorian Dance Weekend" and clicking the link below to get a special rate of $169 per night.
    Hotel Information:
    Four Points by Sheraton/Boston Logan Airport
    407 Squire Rd, Revere, Massachusetts 02151
    Phone: 781-284-7200
    A DIRECT DANCE WEEKEND RESERVATION WEBSITE for Nahant Victorian Dance Weekend has been created. Guests can access the site to learn more about the event and to book, modify, or cancel a reservation from June 21, 2017 to August 14, 2017.
  • Comfort Inn & Suites, 781-485-3600
    85 American Legion Highway (Route 60 near 1A), Revere, about 20 minutes away.
  • Ocean View B & B, 781-598-6388
    email:, 11 Ocean Street, Lynn, 10 minutes away
    Informal period ambiance.
Other hotels and Bed & Breakfast listings can be found on our Lodging and Dining page.


Frequently Asked Questions

Though a partner of one’s own is a help at a ball, please don't let the lack of one keep you away! During the ball, folks mix and dance with many different partners throughout the evening. We also do not Gender Balance so singles will not be placed on a waiting list. Many singles, both male and female, attend the ball. Proper 19th Century etiquette encourages dancers to dance the first and last dance with the person they came with, but to dance with many different partners during the rest of the evening.

The ball is great fun to watch (almost as fun as actually dancing). There is a great view from the Balcony, something of a Busby Berkeley experience during the Quadrilles and Contra Dances. There is no fee for watching, but donations are appreciated especially if one wishes to partake in refreshments.

Children are welcome at the ball if they are accompanied by an adult, and they must be well behaved and supervised during the Ball. Younger children, if they wish to participate in the dancing, might be admitted for a reduced fee.

WHAT TO WEAR? (or do I have to wear Victorian clothes?)
The perennial question that confronts one when getting ready for a ball is "What shall I wear?" For our vintage Balls, we encourage our patrons to wear dress that is either period-style or evocative of the period or theme, but modern formal or semi-formal wear is also equally acceptable. Please don’t let the lack of period or formal clothing keep you away from the ball; the most important thing is for you to come and enjoy the evening. For this Ball, a modern full-length gown, full enough in the skirt to allow freedom of movement, would be just fine. For the Gentlemen, a suit and tie is also an acceptable alternative to white tie and tails or a tuxedo. For those who wish to recreate the mid (1850-60s) or late (1880-90s) Victorian Era, we have created a guide with illustrations of some of the styles worn during this time; please visit the Fashion Section for detailed information about proper period dress and the Costume Timeline for a selection of evening fashions 1850s-1890s.

Period clothing is not required at any of the weekend’s events, we usually have a mix of attendees in period dress and modern formal or semi-formal wear. Don’t let the lack of period clothing keep you away, wear what make you comfortable (no jeans or t-shirts please) and enjoy dancing. The following is an overview of what period dress might be appropriate each day. Remeber that modern dress is welcome at any of the events (no jeans or t-shirts please)
1890s ladies 1890s ladies At the formal dinner on Thursday night, the setting will be late 19th century to 1920s, so elegant evening wear, period or modern is recommended, especially fashions of the styles popular from the 1890s-1920s. But any era of dress is appreciated! For the Friday evening silent film we recommend early twentieth century fashions.
Costumes of the Victorian era, the 1830s through 1900s are encouraged at Saturday’s ball; full=length skirts that are full enough for dancing, and low heeled shoes are best for the dance floor. Spike heels can be dangerous.
Summer whites of any era, especially those of the bustle era and early 20th century, and hats, are encouraged at the concert and tea. The music of the concert will be early 1900s.
Visit the Evening Dress Timeline Page for a selection of evening fashions from the 1850s-1890s, or the Costume library for a number of links to pages detailing fashions of various eras.

1850s couple 1870s ladies 1890s ladies 1899 tailcoat 1919 tailcoat 1910 daywear ladies

If you have questions about what to wear don’t hesitate to contact us (email is best):
or call Katy at (781) 49-WALTZ (781-499-2589).

last updated 12 aug 2017/csb