Out of Time

August 15, 2005 - 12:00am -- swingbug

Cheryl and I stand at the rim of the dance floor, watching the couples swirl around the room counter-clockwise. Dancers on the face of a clock running backwards. Most of the couples moving past us are swirling by in hoop skirts and coat tails, victorian lace swaying as white-gloved gentlemen lead graceful turns in a waltz rhythm. Here and there the timeline leaks or wrinkles. There goes Queen Elizabeth I, and here are Romeo and Juliet. That looks like it Regency-era lady over there, talking to a gentleman in a modern suit and tie.

I whisper to Cheryl behind our fluttering fans, leaning over my 1860's ball gown to reach her ear. She stands beside me in a stately gown from the 1880s. We're a couple out of time.

This is Gaskells. Ye Gaskell Occasional Dance Society holds bi-monthly Victorian balls at the Oakland Scottish Rite Temple. A band plays old tunes from the stage as we try our feet at waltzes and polkas. Between songs, the announcers proclaim the next dance to be a set dance called Sir Roger de Coverley. A gentleman in a tuxedo asks me to dance and eagerly takes my hand. "It's Sir Roger Coverley!" he says, his face lighting up as he leads me to the floor. I have no idea what he's talking about but I follow. People are overwhelmingly nice here. We join a set of dancers who eagerly fill me in on the pattern. Cheryl and her partner take the spot next to me and we smile at each other.

Someone once called my friend Cheryl a walking anachronism. That's about right and it applies to many of the people here, including myself. Cheryl points out different people as they go by that she recognizes from renaissance faires and swing dances. Folks who like to slip out of time. Funny thing is that most of these people are in the science and technology fields. They spend the week in petri dishes and the weekend in petticoats. Perhaps it's an attempt at balance, one that only a scientist could call logical.

Like Cinderella at the ball, we're rather surprised when the clock strikes midnight. The company says good bye with a chorus of "God Save the Queen." Gentleman don their top hats and ladies hug goodbye before filing out of the hall and into the cool night air. Yet again, we're out of time.

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