Society Diary: Shall we Dance?

Arriving back to college with those January blues after a relaxing and gluttonous Christmas is never the most pleasant experience, especially when it is overshadowed by essays and presentations and a voice ringing in your ears telling you that the library is where you belong. As a fourth year student I’ve suffered this unpleasant experience. But walking through the Arts block a few days ago the glum, winter surroundings chose to reveal a poster with a rose on it. My initial reaction was to sneer resentfully at the poster, thinking that it was an advertisement for some sort of special Valentine’s day event. However, I was later informed that this was in fact the poster announcing an upcoming ball. And not just any ball, the all too recognisable BESS ball, two words which constantly fill the air in the excited buzz of the Arts block during the months of January and February.
    I must admit that I am a self-confessed virgin ball-goer. Apart from the yearly Trinity Ball (which let’s face it, isn’t so much a ball as a music festival, where we arrive dressed formally but leave wrapped shivering in every coat and scarf available) I’ve never been to any of Trinity’s society balls. In my first year at college and as a recently returned gap-year traveller, still in the hippy mind-set, I felt that dressing up in expensive formal wear wasn’t my thing. Unfortunately in second year, when I did contemplate attending some event, my negative financial situation offered a clear cut answer: you’re not going anywhere. Having spent a year abroad where balls in universities aren’t the norm, I’ve come to think that I have an obligation, as a fourth year unfamiliar with the ball scene, to attend this year’s biggest society ball.
Still, I can’t help feeling that these balls and formal events are a product of the Celtic Tiger years. Doesn’t it seem somewhat hypocritical that the newspapers are constantly publishing articles about the dire straits that we soon-to-be-graduates are in, facing into the job sector, yet we still have the time and funds to lash out a minimum of €60 for a good night out? And the even bigger question is, will the night out be worth the money we pay?
    It was with this question in mind that I approached Matthew Smyth, a member of the committee of Dublin University Business and Economics Society, and therefore one of the main organisers of this year’s ball. Was it worth spending my carefully saved funds on a night with the general Arts block population? 80th anniversary was Smyth’s answer. He went on to explain that this year is the 80th anniversary of DUBES, and so this year’s ball was aiming to be bigger and better than ever before. I still wasn’t convinced.
Every society on campus claims to hold the best events, bring in the most enthusiastic members and have the strongest student appeal. I had never even considered joining this business and commerce orientated society so my interest in its activities would have been minimal up until now. Yet, somehow I walked away from my meeting with Smyth having promised to attend the society’s ‘event of the year’. How did he manage to convert a non-believer to a vision of ball-bonding? Was it because of the promises of an ice sculpture, fake paparazzi, a magician or an incredible lights display? Was it the allure of spending an hour drinking champagne in the Bellini bar in preparation for what was to be a fabulous night?
    The reason for my conversion was simple. The easiest way to make a final year student uncomfortable is to point out that they only have a few months left in the cosy, safe environment in which they belong, better known as Trinity College. Moreover, pointing out that they only have a mere matter of weeks to make the most of their college experience puts a real black cloud over the situation, especially when constant assignments are reducing their capacity to have a proper social life. So, what about a distraction, an event to take your mind off the reality of stress and exams? This is how Smyth sold me the BESS ball, a window of breathing space from the jungle of books and essays. It would provide for me a night filled with rose petals and dancing, from a classical quartet to a jazz band and most importantly, a chocolate fountain! The reminder that this would be an opportunity to hang out with not only close friends, but also acquaintances made throughout the years, in the beautiful surroundings of the Burlington Hotel, made me question my negative view of society balls. Had I been closed minded about these events?
    My discussion with Smyth led to his giving me an overview of DUBES. This is how he sees it: an organization growing in membership, profile and ambition; holding events relevant to every Irish person’s current situation, such as the post-budget analysis, and joining up with other societies such as Cancer Soc, Players and the Student Union, pulling together the enthusiasm which this society has for not only entertaining students but educating them also.
    One of the key requirements of student life is to enjoy oneself, to make the most of our lack of responsibility and enjoy freedom of thinking, choice and lifestyle. The BESS ball is the amalgamation of all of these aspects of our college life, or so I’ve been told. So with ticket reserved and the night of the 12th of February cleared on my calendar, am I making the right decision? Will the €60 I spend on that night be worth it? I’ve decided that a night out dancing in pretty gowns is exactly what we need, not only for us long-suffering fourth years, but as an excuse for everybody to forget reality for one night and live the fairytale.