Fans of Jane Austen may be forgiven for collapsing in a heap in 2017 after all the worldwide celebrations paying homage to the 200th anniversary of her death.
But for many devotees of the author and the Regency period, the dancing — and the dressing up — never stops.
Last month, some 300 costumed revelers gathered at the Masonic Temple in Pasadena, Calif., for the annual Jane Austen Evening. It’s just one of the regular events around the country that unite both hard-core Janeites and period dance enthusiasts under the Austen brand.
Austen-themed balls go back at least to the mid-1970s, when the Jane Austen Society of North America, a separate, more scholarly group, was formed. The Pasadena event was founded in 1998, three years after the release of Amy Heckerling’s “Clueless,” Ang Lee’s “Sense and Sensibility” and, especially, the BBC and A&E’s television adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” (two words: Colin Firth) kicked off a new Austen boom.
The evening is less about geeking out on Austen than about what Tim Steinmeier, the event’s organizer, called “time travel.” There were no zombies in attendance, and none of the steampunk style that has taken over many Victorian balls, Mr. Steinmeier said.
“People play it straight,” he added.
But Michael R. Perry, a screenwriter who was at his 11th Austen evening, recalled at least one close encounter of the cross-cosplay kind a few years back. It involved “Battlestar Galactica” fans, who had gathered at a hotel across the street for an auction of props from that just-ended series.
“The guards wouldn’t let us in, since it was part of a ticketed fan event, but, as we turned to leave, the models who were dressed up as robots and pilots stopped us,” Mr. Perry said. “They walked us past security so that we Austenites could pose with Cylons in front of the futuristic spacecraft.”
Here are a few scenes from the evening. JENNIFER SCHUESSLER
“Austen wrote so many different kinds of heroines in very emotionally perceptive ways that it’s easy for readers to find one they see themselves as.” — Elizabeth Bursick
“Our most popular dances are Prince William, Irish Lamentation and Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot. A maggot just means a whim or a fancy. Most other balls won’t do these dances, saying they’re done to death.” — Tim Steinmeier
“I bought the eyeglasses in 2008, for our first Jane Austen Evening, and the prescription is now out-of-date, so the world may be blurry, but I look sharp.” — Michael R. Perry
“My favorite Austen character? Colin Firth. Wait, no — great movie!” — Laura Grass