.. With a Doe-Si-Doe . . .

The quadrille ranks are formed with German precision
A quadrille is a French country dance, with partners grouped into eights and a caller instructing them in the moves--rather like an American square dance. The Quadrille, in New York, is an annual ball benefiting a German society that grants scholarships to German graduate students.

We know several people who've participated in the Quadrille--the part of the evening where twenty couples dressed formally alike perform the formal Quadrille. It's an honor to be invited to participate. Learning and practicing the dance takes five months. For the big night the men wear white tie and tails and the women wear white gowns, all alike. Their hair must be up, and they all wear tiaras. The attire, like the dance, is enforced with German rigidity.

Katie performing one of 54 curtseys in the quadrille.
This year, News reader Dan Katz's girlfriend Katie was invited to dance. That meant Dan would attend, but for a large part of the night he'd be on his own in a ballroom full of strangers.

One person he would know was our mutual friend Elizabeth, whose family always has a table. A few weeks before the ball, Elizabeth's father offered two seats at their table to Andrew and I. We decided not to tell Dan we'd be going.

Dan and Katie
A couple days before the ball Dan called and asked if wanted to get together for a drink on Saturday afternoon. He'd be in New York (he lives in Boston while Katie lives in New York), but Katie was busy all afternoon. "Sure," I said, imagining the fun of asking him all about the ball he was going to.

Andrew and Elizabeth cut the rug
That afternoon, after buying a new car, I took the bus into the city to meet Dan at Andrew's. I slipped in and hid my garment bag, then we all went out for sushi. Andrew and I gleefully probed Dan about the ball. What was he wearing, what did the ticket cost, did he expect to have a good time . . . It seemed as if a big part of his justification for going was because he thought he'd never have a reason to wear white tie again. When he asked us what we were doing that evening, we hedged, and said we were thinking of renting a movie. Andrew even suggested that I would have to go get it because it was so cold out he wasn't going back outside.

Parting from Dan we rushed home giggling to change into our own white tie attire.

Andrew and me on the dance floor
At the Plaza we met Elizabeth and her husband Matt. Shortly after we had acquired our first glasses of champagne, Dan turned up:

"Okay, so how long have you guys known you were coming?"

The Cocktail hour ended and the guests, several hundred in all, were escorted by liveried pages (ballet students from Julliard) and West Point cadets up to the ballroom. Dan was seated with Katie's brother and his girlfriend, but he found cadet at Katie's table who was willing to trade. The dancers all sat together, and they were not allowed to dance before dinner, although the rest of us were.

Andrew and Dan at 2 a.m.
The dance floor was quickly filled with whirling, dazzling guests. More amazing than the glamorous women were the men, all in tails, many wearing medals. Eventually dinner was served, and as dessert was being distributed the presentation began. First the cadets posted the colors and the band played the American and German national anthems. Then there were speeches, and finally the introduction of the dancers.

Dan, Matt (seated), Elizabeth, and Andrew
These formalities completed, the Quadrille itself takes approximately 12 and a half minutes. Afterwards, the dancers are finally allowed to come back and socialize and dance. Around midnight, a repeat of the quadrille was organized with any of the guests who wanted to participate. This, quickly degenerated, but was great fun.

The ball ended at 1 a.m. The post ball party was in the next ballroom over. Taking a bottle of wine and the centerpiece from our table, we staked out a new table near the swing band. The only challenge then was to keep on dancing, which we did right up until 3 a.m. While a certain more mature element left at one a.m., most of those who stayed for on were still going strong when we left.


Copyright 2001 Mia's Mar Vista News. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction by permission only.