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"I should like balls infinitely better," she replied, "if they were carried on in a different manner; but there is something insufferably tedious in the usual process of such a meeting. It would surely be much more rational if conversation instead of dancing were made the order of the day."
Dancing. An occasion for gathering and celebrating. Also for gossip, intrigue, and romance. Often occurs at other celebrations, such as a feast.
The terms tend to be "balls" for Blue Blood and Royal Blood guests (expect Gorgeous Period Dress and Ermine Cape Effect, if not Pimped-Out Dress -- with some justification, as balls would be occasions when they pulled out the stops), and "dances" for more common sorts of folk.
Straight-laced members of society may disapprove of the frivolity, particularly if serious things are going on. And when these serious things are war, famine, pestilence and the like, they don't have to be very straight-laced.
Quite often in a story, Dances and Balls will be used as an opportunity to show that a Beautiful All Along girl (sometimes, but less common, guy) cleans up nicely (to the amazement of fellow protagonists). Other times, it will be used to show that the protagonist (particularly if it's a male lead) is virtuous and cannot understand the snooty ways of aristocrats. Expect a scene where he says he hates dancing (or just plain can't dance).
- In King of Bandit Jing, there is an arc called "The Masquerade Ball of Zaza." It turns out it's not actually a ball with dancing, but a huge coliseum tournament. However, after Jing manages to steal the object he wants and have the Queen realize the error of her ways, it ends up reverting to being a normal ball. Funnily enough, the beautiful Girl of the Week isn't shown dancing because she's saving her first dance for Jing.
- It's renamed the "Mas Corrida" which amounts to "Bullfight With People Instead of Bulls". With a lip service story about why the Masquerades turned into a brutal fighting tournament. In a rather nice moment of storytelling, Jing and the Girl of the Week actually fight in the finals of the tournament, and it degenerates into something resembling a dance.
- Relena's birthday party in Gundam Wing featured a ball where she danced with Heero and talked to him about his motives. Then the mechs arrived to assassinate her and the evening kind of went downhill from there.
- In Yami no Matsuei, while Tsuzuki and Hisoka go undercover to solve a mystery on a cruise, there's a section where the cruise has a dance and ball (complete with a scene of Hisoka dancing with apparent Shallow Love Interest Tsubaki who was actually an undead Ill Girl of sorts and one of Muraki's victims).
- In Emma: A Victorian Romance, Emma is convinced to attend one, and is shown to clean up nicely. The only problem is that she's pretty much blind without her glasses, but since she looks much better in the dress without them, she's told to put up with it.
- Revolutionary Girl Utena has one, which includes a subplot with a water-soluble dress and enough Les Yay to make men ovulate and females have hard-ons. It also doubles as an invitation to throw all everyday logic out of the window, if the previous episodes hadn't already convinced you to do so, with massive epaulets hidden under a shoulderless dress, and a functional outfit made from a tablecloth in a matter of seconds.
- In Hana Yori Dango, Tsukushi Makino goes on a cruise vacation with the rest of her rich, aristocratic classmates. On the cruise, there's a dance ball. This ball allowed her the opportunity of showing that She Cleans Up Nicely, making the spoiled, Lonely Rich Kid Tsukasa fall harder for her.
- In Yuu Watase's manga Sakura Gari, Souma brings Masataka to an aristocratic dance ball. It's used as an opportunity to show how Masataka, being a down-to-earth commoner, is unable to dance and feels uncomfortable and out of place in such a fancy party. And although it's shown that He Cleans Up Nicely, the Alpha Bitch takes it upon herself to "put him in his place" (which results in Souma dancing with Masataka instead).
- Not to mention, when a stuck-up aristocrat starts bitching at Souma, Masataka jumps in to call him out on his crap. Katsuragi and Souma are shocked, but they support him in the end. Ironic, considering that the apparent Pet the Dog moment from Katsuragi is just a Red Herring to conceal how much of a Yandere for Souma he is.
- In D.Gray-man, although Allen and the protagonists are never shown attending one, the Noah are (and a fancy one at that). Tyki is shown dancing with a young noblewoman (who seems to have a crush on him), and as Sherill puts it, "is the star - everyone is courting him."
- In Ouran High School Host Club, the club hosts a dance party with a surprise that the chosen Queen gets to receive a kiss from the King (which ends up being Haruhi). After playing matchmaker by putting Tooru and Kanako together and allowing them to have a beautiful waltz, Haruhi ends up accidentally losing her Sacred First Kiss to Kanako while dancing with her. A very drama-filled Dance Ball indeed.
- In the world of Berserk, the only way for the aristocracy to deal with the constant war, turmoil and bloodshed that they put their citizens and troops through is to hold pimped-out balls for themselves, even if they all end on a horrible note:
- First, the King of Midland holds a ball for Princess Charlotte to which Griffith is invited to. Later that evening, it was announced that Duke Julius and his son were assassinated by a plot that Griffith orchestrated. He was pleased with the news to say the least. Very pleased.
- Later, the King holds a Dance Ball for the Band of Hawk after their victory. All the members of the Band of Hawk dress fancily as nobles. Both Caska and Guts are shown to be extremely uncomfortable at such fancy social events (especially while wearing such frilly and expensive clothing instead of armor). For Caska, however, the series made it clear that She Cleans Up Nicely, despite her protests. (And Guts's reaction makies it even better). Oh, and then a botched assassination attempt happened on Griffith by the Queen and her mooks. Don't worry, Griffith is alive and well in order to burn the Queen and her mooks alive with the help of another mook who he had blackmailed into helping him.
- A few volumes later, Farnese is shown attending a ball that her rich, aristocratic father hosts. There she dances with her fiancee, Roderick. Of course, true to Berserk fashion, the party ends with huge amounts of violence and bloodshed via demonic tigers and and soldiers from Kushan. What better way to end a grand evening in the Berserkerverse?
- In Gankutsuou, while Franz and Albert were visiting the Carnival on Luna, Franz was shown attending a ball and dancing with the Marchioness. Of course, he has a really hard time enjoying the ball when the aristocrats there warn him that Albert, being out alone at night, is probably going to get mugged and beaten up (which is exactly what happened, plus getting kidnapped).
- In Blood Plus, Saya attends a ball in her Vietnam school, borrowing a dress from her friend. Being an Action Girl, she feels uncomfortable wearing fancy clothes like that, and is far more interested in the roasted chicken than in dancing. the Alpha Bitch stops by and decides to drop a few insults about how outdated her dress is, but of course, Solomon invites her for his only dance.
- In the Black Cat manga, Train is duped by Rinslet into pretending to be her lover so that she can attend Madame Freesia's Birthday Ball. Train, being a Heroic Archetype, loathes fancy events like that and dancing. So although Rinslet wanted to spend more romantic time with Train at the ball, he ends up instead running off to fight and capture a bounty.
- In Black Butler, since Ciel is part of an aristocratic society (being of Royal Blood and all), there are many dances and balls he attends. One particular instance that stands out is when he not only has to attend a dance ball, but must crossdress while doing so. And he must avoid his fiancee Elizabeth from noticing lest he be embarrassed. Hilarity Ensues.
- Code Geass : The Sino-Brittanian pre-wedding party is just such an example, complete with plenty of drama when Zero & Co. crashes the party. And the day after he does it again, because Lelouch can't do anything in moderation.
- At the end of the sixth episode in the first season of the anime Zero no Tsukaima the magic academy holds a ball and Louise (wearing a fancy dress) dances with Saito. (Saito's the only one at the ball who isn't dressed up nicely.)
- Mahou Sensei Negima has a HUGE ball in the Magical World, where Negi and Co. are invited by Governor Godel. It turns out to be very plot important, as well as being filled with requisite amounts of Ship Tease.
- Pandora Hearts has a fondness for balls that end...badly. The ball for Oz's coming of age ceremony at the very beginning of the series ends up with the Baskervilles attacking and Oz getting thrown into the Abyss. The next major ball we see occurs during the Isla Yura arc in his manor. It begins with beautiful clothes, sparkles, and humorous encounters. It ends with blood, fire, torture, brainwashing, and death.
- Rose of Versailles has many important events take place at balls, including the first meeting between Marie Antoinette and Count Fersen. They also showcase the extravagance of the French royal family.
Fairy Tales and Folklore
- In "Cinderella", the king holds a ball so that his son may meet eligible women.
- In Grimms' "The True Sweetheart", the true sweetheart goes to the festivities celebrating her prince's marriage to someone else, and despite his inability to remember her, he dances with her. The third time, she is able to break the spell on him.
- In "Catskin", the heroine, having escaped an Arranged Marriage, works in a menial position at the castle, but she dresses up for the ball and wins the prince's heart.
- In "The Bear", the princess had changed herself into a bear to escape her Overprotective Dad, but she changes into her own form for a ball.
- In The Brothers Grimm's "All Kinds Of Fur", the heroine, having escaped a marriage with her own father, works in a menial position at the castle, but when there is a feast, she dresses up and shows herself, and the prince insists on dancing with her.
- In "Cap O' Rushes", the heroine is driven out by her father and takes a menial job, but dresses up for a dance and wins the master's son.
- In Joseph Jacobs's "Tattercoats", the king holds a ball so that his son will meet eligible women. Unusually, he meets Tattercoats en route to the ball, and tells her to come to show that he will really marry her. She comes in all her rags, and the prince declares that he wants to marry her while she is still dressed in them.
- In Grimms' "The Twelve Dancing Princesses", the twelve princesses would sneak out in the middle of the night and go with twelve princes to a special castle where they would dance the whole night. The King was perplexed as to why all his daughter's shoes would be worn out after every night.
- In "Kate Crackernuts", Kate discovers that the sick prince is being forced by The Fair Folk to ride to their hill and dance to exhaustion every night; she rescues him.
- The Fair Folk's dances are very, very, very dangerous. Mortals who see them are often caught up in the dancing and are unable to stop. The lucky ones don't crumble into dust when it finally ends. One folk explanation of tuberculous was that its victims were forced to dance every night at the fairy hills, and wasted away for the lack of sleep.
Film -- Animated
- Disney's Beauty and the Beast had one with only two participants. (Yes, it does make sense and is visually impressive... but it's a few steps above showing off.)
- Of course, the Beast has his own, personal ballroom, so yeah...
- Disney's adaptation of Cinderella had one, of course, as it was part of the original fairy tale.
- Cinderella has to plan another one in the direct-to-DVD sequel Cinderella II.
- In Anastasia, Rasputin curses the royal family during a ball to celebrate the Romanovs' multiple centuries of rule over Russia. It works, because shortly afterwards not-Lenin and the not-Bolsheviks raid the palace and Anastasia barely makes it out of there.
- In The Princess and the Frog, most of the action kicks off at Charlotte's Mardi Gras costume party. It even includes a parody of the Cinderella dance, when Naveen or rather, Lawrence disguised as Naveen shows up and has a romantic dance with Charlotte. He plays it completely seriously, however Charlotte is...rather excited.
Film -- Live Action
- Almost any film about high society in any period of history, particularly an era known for its Gorgeous Period Dress, will have at least one scene set at a ball or other grand party. Movies based on the novels of Jane Austen, Edith Wharton or Henry James will almost certainly have a Dances and Balls scene, for example.
- In the fourth Harry Potter film, there's the huge Yule Ball, with pretty much everyone dancing. One of the highlights of the event was the opportunity to show Hermione looking unusually beautiful when she tries. Mind you, this is taken straight from the book.
- In Enchanted, being a sort of parody on Fairy Tales, it has a dramatic and grand Dance Ball near the end. It's complete with Giselle looking stunning in her dress and Robert showing that, although he doesn't like dancing, he actually can.
- In Labyrinth, there's the rather famous Masquerade Ballroom dance scene between Sarah and Jareth.
- In Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, the title character, her husband, and her two favorite ladies sneak out of Versailles to attend a Masquerade Ball in Paris.
- In Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Alice is forced to do a rather boring ballroom dance, the quadrille, at what is eventually revealed to be her engagement party.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the cheerleaders have to plan a dance inspired by a real-world problem; they dub it the "Hug the World" dance, about the environment, and it's where the vampires attack a large percentage of the student body. The clueless principal ends the dance by handing out detention slips to people who are dead.
- Even more hilariously, the vampires are only able to get in because they were invited. After all, they are seniors!
- Fort Apache has two dances, one in honour of Washington's birthday, the other hosted by the NC Os of the fort.
- Waterloo: The Duchess of Richmond's ball on the eve of hostilities.
- Mona Lisa Smile, being set in a university milieu, has a college dance scene.
- Back to The Future!
- The New Year's ball at the end of Radio Days.
- The ending of The Princess Diaries takes place at one.
- The tension in the family comes to a head during one when Lilli enters looking almost exactly like her mother in Snow White a Tale of Terror.
- Jane Austen loves this trope: Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Northanger Abbey all feature balls very prominently. They're a great place for meeting your future mate.
- Considering that balls were a staple of upper-class social gatherings in late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century Britain, this makes a certain amount of sense.
- Reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time and coming across the page quote was when I started to realise just how awesome Bingley is. He gets overlooked as a character, but he's pretty damn awesome.
- Many significant events happen at balls in War and Peace.
- Gone with the Wind references them often in the early part of the book, with a large number of events occuring at a barbecue.
- The Yule ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
- The Yule Ball has become a very popular plot point for a lot of fanfiction writers, a good many ignoring the fact that it only is supposed to take place during the Triward Event and instead treating it like a wizarding Homecoming/Prom. This provides golden opportunity to put their characters in elaborately-described dresses and have a Dance of Romance, or at least show off their favorite couples.
- In Patricia A. McKillip's The Bell at Sealey Head, Dalia mulls over what to invite Miranda Beryl to: a ball or a dinner with dancing. Since she arrived because a woman is dying and she will inherit, a ball is shot down as too festive.
- Sadly, this is a relatively underused trope in Discworld, as Lord Ventinari has no balls. In fact, there's a well known song about that...
- There is a ball in the Witches Abroad novel -- central to it.
- And while wizards don't have balls either (ahem), they do hold their annual Excuse Me.
- In Mistborn, these are such a big deal that their ballrooms' designs are based on real-world cathedrals.
- In Nightlight, the Harvard Lampoon's spoof of Twilight, Belle Goose attends a vampire prom.
- In Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, the Lobster Quadrille.
- Ballroom style dancing makes up a significant portion of the High Vor social scene in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga.
- In John C. Wright's Count To A Trillion Menelaus goes to one after Blackie rouses him, and he feels Alone in a Crowd.
- Annie Moffat's St. Valentines Day Ball in Little Women.
- In PG Wodehouse's A Damsel in Distress, a ball is held for Lord Belpher's twenty-first birthday; the guest of honor doesn't dance, and so doesn't dance at it.
- In The Witch Watch, Sir Brook invites Lord Moxley and the other influential noblemen who failed to support him to a dinner and ball. And of all places it's there he chooses to announce his treachery.
- In Battlestar Galactica Reimagined's episode "Colonial Day", there's a celebration with a lot of dancing to celebrate the election of Gaius Baltar to the vice-presidency.
- In The Tudors, there are a lot of Dances and Balls (complete with feasts). Of course, the show is about the palace life and reign of Henry the VIII...
- In Firefly, the episode "Shindig" features Mal going to a fancy ball with Kaylee (since Inara was already going with Atherton Wing). However, in the end, the ones dancing together are Mal and Inara, and Kaylee ends up spending her time discussing machinery with the other gentlemen guests instead. Mind you, she's having a wonderful time.
- In fact, Kaylee tries to play the part of the usual Jane Austen romantic girl at the party. She's promptly belittled by several bitchy girls and is rescued by one of the gentlemen she winds up talking engines with. She winds up enjoying that so much that she ignores a fellow asking her to dance.
- Interestingly, the director's commentary reveals the dancing sequence was originally going to be much longer, with an extended gag of Mal stumbling over the steps of each new dance before announcing that he actually knew this one and have the plot-relevant conversation over the top of it. Due to pacing issues, only this last segment was left in.
- This trope is everywhere on Gossip Girl - the Kiss on the Lips Dance, Snowflake Ball, etc.
- Lampshaded in the first season of Community. There were so many dances that at the end of the year anyone who attend all of them got a tee-shirt.
- T. S. Eliot's "East Coker"
you can hear the music
Of the weak pipe and the little drum
And see them dancing around the bonfire
the association of man and woman
In daunsinge, signifying matrimonie
A dignified and commodious sacrament.
Two and two, necessarye coniunction,
Holding eche other by the hand or the arm
Whiche betokeneth concorde. Round and round the fire
Leaping through the flames, or joined in circles,
Rustically solemn or in rustic laughter
Lifting heavy feet in clumsy shoes,
Earth feet, loam feet, lifted in country mirth.
- The second act of the Lloyd-Webber version of The Phantom of the Opera begins with a massive masquerade ball (which the Phantom, of course, crashes).
- Wicked has two: the dance at the Ozdust Ballroom in act one, and Glinda's engagement ball in act two.
- Aaron Copland's Rodeo includes dances at the end, "Saturday Night Waltz" and "Hoe-Down", at which the romances of the ballet are settled.
- Towards the end of Les Misérables, there's Marius and Cosette's wedding. This has a dance number going on in the background, which is later led to a much more upbeat song by the Thenardiers.
- The Dance at the Gym in West Side Story.
- The Embassy Ball in My Fair Lady.
- In Final Fantasy VIII, one of the more famous cutscenes from it are at the dancing ball where Squall first meets Rinoa. Squall is shown to be extremely reluctant to dance with her, and appears to be quite clumsy during the initial parts of the dance, but then gets over it and starts dancing quite skillfully. Later on, he admits to Rinoa that ballroom dancing is taught to SeeD candidates as a potential cover skill, with the implication that his initial clumsiness was mostly nerves.
- Dancing is one of the most popular activities in Second Life: a chance to listen to music, show off new avatars and costumes and the like, and chat.
- Girl Genius does their version of "Cinderella" ... for science!
- There's also Agatha's outburst about her friends wondering which guy she'll end up with.
Agatha: WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU TWO? ARE YOU TWELVE? BOYFRIENDS?! SERIOUSLY?! I've got more important things to worry about! The baron wants me dead! An impostor is trying to take my place! Armies are trying to take over town! The castle is broken and the "Other" is still in my head! Also, I'm very hungry and need a bath! Now, when all that's taken care of, we'll have a great big fancy party, and I'll wear a pretty dress, and I'll dance with all the boys, and everything will be sugar hearts and flowers!
Violet: This party - can I have a pretty dress too?
Agatha: ... Well of course. Assuming you're still alive.
- The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob -- Bob and Jean attend a royal ball on an alien planet at Princess Voluptua's invitation. Most of the dancers are Nemesite butterfly people, and do their dancing in midair. Major plot/character development stuff ensues.
- Strays The party includes dancing
- In Endstone, part of the back story happened at a birthday ball.
- In Erstwhile, All Furs goes to the ball.
- In No Rest for The Wicked, November met Princess Colette at one.
- At the Taurëcuiva Festival in Ears for Elves, there is a dance in the evening. Tanna doesn't want to do anything more than sit at the back, though, and Zalanna is horrified when she turns down a partner. However, Tanna does have to enter the dance floor to get across the hall when fetching wine, and when Luero drags her on. It turns out that she can dance (being effectively a princess), but he... isn't so talented.
- In The Gamers Alliance, the ball held in the capital of Maar Sul starts out alright but then things start to get weirder and weirder as it progresses (e.g. the herald suddenly introduces a freaking lion which promptly devours four nearby Scuns, and no one bats an eye). The festivities come to a sudden halt when the Nightstalkers crash the party and start causing havoc.
- In The Gungan Council, there are at least three are hosted each year, and they're usually non-violent.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has the royal Equestrian social event of the year, The Grand Galloping Gala, as a plot arc in the first season. All the mane six ponies have their own reasons to attend, but of them it's Rarity who has the most "fairy tale" plan - to meet a handsome prince. None of them get quite what they wanted out of the event, and it ends in a disaster for most of the guests in attendance, but the girls end up having a good night anyway.