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The title of this article might well have been:
What Does "the Regency" Have to Do with Worldcons? or
Why Do Worldcons Have Regency Dances?
Historically, the English Regency of George IV lasted only from 1811 to 1820, but the "regency period" often is regarded as including roughly the years 17901820. Those years also include the climatic period known as "The Little Warming," which caused clothing to be very different in this period (more risqué) than it was before or after. Many fans will take the opportunity of a Regency Dance to make or wear costumes of the period (check out the following sites for examples and links to further information).
- The Regency Fashion Page
- The Regency Page
- The Elegant Arts Society
- The Friends of the English Regency.
Other fans attend in non-period costumes or modern dressfrivolity is encouraged!
None of this information, though, explains why almost every Worldcon and quite a few regional cons since the late 1970s have had a Regency Dance.
John Hertz (shown here dressed for a Regency dance at Magicon, in 1992), includes in a Mimosa article entitled, "The English Regency and Me", the memorable line, "Fuzzy Pink Niven no longer mixes the eggnog that inspired the first Georgette Heyer convention". That same article offers some clues as to how the world of the Regency captured the attention of science fiction fans and Regency dances became fixtures at Worldcons and other conventions.
It Goes Back to Books...
The Regency romances of Georgette Heyer describe a fantasy world of noble noblemen and strong, intelligent women, with 90% of the unpleasant social realities off-stage. It's at least as alien a culture to most of us as anything you'll find in your favorite hard SF universe!
Heyer's novels have wonderful comedic scenes where all the characters say witty things that most of us would only think of a week after the scene was over. Interesting characters that are easy to identify with and a (for the most part) unfamiliar society what's not to like?
In the 1960s, a number of fans discovered these novels when they were reprinted in paperback after being out-of-print for about 30 years. These fans started quoting them to each other and a great wave of proselytizing swept through fandom.
Almost immediately, The Almack's Society for Heyer Criticism sprang up and six Lady Patronesses and a few Lord Patrons started giving out vouchers.
Teas became a favored activity at several regional cons, where fans could talk about the novels, quote favorite lines and pretend to be upper class. (Now there's a fantasy!)
But What About the Dancing?
John Hertz reconstructed some dances using, among other texts, The English Dancing Master, which was originally published in 1651 and went through more than a dozen edition between 1651 and 1728 and often referred to as Playford. (John Playford was the music publisher who issued the first version). Most of the reconstructed dances are from later editions of Playford.
You can look at a facsimile edition of the 1651 Playford on line.
Noreascon's Regency Dance
Noreascon's Regency Dance is scheduled for Friday, 3 September, 2004, 2:005:00pm in the Grand Ballroom, Sheraton Boston Hotel.