Nicole Entin provides an exclusive preview of the French Society's inaugural Ball'delaire.
“A punning name for your event is already a win in my book”, I observed to Alex Beckett, the vice-president of the French Society, regarding the name of their first-ever ball hosted this coming month – the Ball’delaire. Playing on the name of the iconic nineteenth-century French poet, Charles Baudelaire, I was pleased to give it the preliminary literature-and-art-history-student seal of approval.
The compliment was graciously accepted, with Alex revealing to me the unlikely origins of the ball’s name: “[it] came to me in our kitchen and I think it perfectly demonstrates our desire to mix fun and culture”. If you’re looking for an event that promises its guests to “dîner, danser, s'amuser” (or ‘dine, dance, and have fun’, translated for those of you who aren’t in a mildly toxic relationship with the Duolingo Owl), look no further!
The Saint chatted with members of the French Society committee to share an exclusive preview of what to expect from the event happening on 15 March at the Hotel du Vin. Whether you have already got your ticket or you’re still on the fence, the event’s classy theme, swoon-worthy soundtrack, and the promise of a killer bow tie might just be enough to win you over.
The French Society is known for hosting many cultural events that bring Francophone flair to the St Andrews bubble. From their Bavardages in BrewCo, providing opportunities for native French speakers and avid learners of the language alike to parler en français, to their popular food-themed events like the Wine and Cheese nights and the Raclette dinner in the winter, the society has consistently demonstrated that they know how to give their event attendees a good time.
So, what inspired the French Society to host their very first ball? Alex credits it largely to “a combination of ambition and potential” spurred by the society’s president, Stanislas Zagun. Stanislas acknowledged that there was a lot of internal demand within the society for a ball, and wanted to create a “magnificent event” as a parting gift both from and for the graduating committee members.
In thinking of “new and exciting ways to engage the Francophones and Francophiles of St Andrews”, Alex noted, the idea of a ball was floated as an event that would bring together French-speaking students, students who study the language as part of their degree, and more generally anyone whose curiosity is piqued by the possibility of “a great night à la française”.
Stanislas encapsulated the ethos of Ball’delaire in the “French joie de vivre [that] will obviously be reflected by the presence of French people, French music, and French food”. Hosted in the sophisticated environs of the Hotel du Vin, a ticket to Ball’delaire includes a three-course meal inspired by the classic flavours of French cuisine (rumour has it that crème brûlée might make an appearance in the dessert course), half a bottle of wine, and a night spent dancing away to the best of classic and modern French music.
Discussing the most exciting aspects of the evening that attendees can look forward to, Alex neatly summed up the event’s premise in “the class of the black-tie dress code and the groove of some of French music's best hits”. Given that a significant majority of the St Andrews social scene is made up of balls, you know that students here rarely miss an opportunity to dress up in their finest gowns and tuxedos – and whilst the French Society is keeping their cards close to their chest about any special surprises that the event has in store, Alex did promise that his “bow tie is going to be a scorcher”.
The music that will be playing at the Ball’delaire is another exciting element of the evening, and the committee is reportedly planning on giving attendees the opportunity to control the soundtrack of their night. “We have some ideas that we're thinking through and discussing at the moment, one of which is to give attendees the opportunity to request all of their favourite songs prior to the event,” Alex said, “such that they can optimally enjoy their time on the dancefloor.”
As a longtime event reviewer, I can think of very few events – especially balls – that have implemented such a concept. A significant upgrade from holding up your phone toward a DJ with a desperate plea to ‘play Dancing Queen’, the idea that guests can control the playlist for their night is a particularly enticing one. With so many great choices from Francophone music and beyond, whether you’re in the mood for a classic chanson, or need some Stromae to get you onto the dancefloor, the sounds of the Ball’delaire may very well be in your hands.
When asked to pitch the ball in five words to a prospective attendee, Alex straightforwardly told me, “It’s Wednesday evening, come on.” And perhaps it really is that simple! Poor old Wednesday, maligned by many as the ‘hump day’ of the week, is in desperate need of a makeover. So why not give the middle of your week a little rebrand, and join the French Society at their first-ever ball?
Tickets are £51 for society members and £54 for non-members, and are being sold through the Union website. But be quick if you want to attend the Ball’delaire, because ticket sales are closing at the end of the day on February 28th. With an evening full of the best food, music, and conviviality that French culture has to offer, it will certainly be a night to remember.
Image: the French Society