Review: White Tie Reeling Ball

Reeling Ball is “reel-y” fantastic!

Saturday the eighth of November was a thoroughly miserable day. St Andrews was in its element – the biting cold, unforgiving wind, fog, rain – a bleak setting for the annual White Tie Reeling Ball. Brave souls in tails and white tie, alongside a rainbow of kilts trudged to the Union for unofficial pre-drinks, defying the elements with boisterous cheer. Walking into the bar, one was greeted by the absolute chaos of filling out one’s dance card, to determine your partner for each of the 10 reels (dances) to come.

Ready to pipe the hoards into Kinkell

Trotting out, the busses were filled and off we sped to good old Kinkell. A glass of bubbly met the crowd of exceptionally chic Brits, and the chattering burbled away till the rather famous ‘Infamous Grouse’ band serenaded the assembled onto the dancefloor for the first reel, the Dashing White Sergeant. Knowing the reels is key to enjoying the event (although the author is generally clueless and still had a cracking great time), and so attendance at the practices beforehand was most useful.

It is rather bizarrely, on the whole, a relatively sober event – one of the only parties in St Andrews that is bearable without alcohol. That is not to say that it was a teetotal event – quite on the contrary, as towards the end things were getting rather wobbly. An entire row of boys collapsed in the last reel, although we may suspect that it was not the Scottish wind that knocked them over. In an unfortunate incident one reveller, having decided to take a nap mid dance, when shaken awake he proceeded to give the bouncer’s nose a Scottish massage, with his fist. A small mishap amongst the excellence of the rest of the evening. Wine and water flowed plentifully, not the finest on offer, but it certainly made the ticket price seem value for money.

At half-past one, ‘breakfast’ was offered, the full English (or is it Scottish?) variety, with steaming hot tea to revive tired dancers. This was delicious, and leads the author to conclude that this event is of excellent value in comparison to others – in white tie, endless drinks, bus ride to Kinkell, a bubbly reception, and breakfast, all included. Is there anything else one could want?!

The Reeling Ball is by far the most elegant and civilised ball in St Andrews, the only real occasion for the very formal ‘white tie’ dress. Very telling of the quality of the night is the clientele – a very large proportion of them are from beyond St Andrews, having come up from all parts of the British Isles for the weekend; a new element other balls cannot lay claim to. While very civilised and cultured, it became the opposite towards the end of the night, as wild ‘Braveheart’ Scotsmen, passionate in the reeling bloodlust, romped up and down the files of reelers, spinning their partners away, kilts becoming cyclones of tartan colour. Quite a spectacle, much enjoyed by the hardcore dancers and newbies alike.

Reeling Ball is unique among St Andrews events: it does not resort to dubstep or other modern horrors that usually lead to fistpumping, grinding, and other potentially off-putting features of student life. If you’re a keen dancer, or have two left feet, reeling ball has something for everyone.

An excellent evening, the effort that was put into it, by both committee and dancers alike, certainly paid off. We can’t wait for next year already!

All photos courtesy of Reeling Ball