Inaugural Ball promenades through decades

Fledgling RSO Breaking Grounds plans to hail the coming of the next administration with a Great Depression-themed ball.

By Chase Weldon

The weather may be getting colder at the U of C, but leave it to a fledgling RSO to sizzle things up. Instead of staying home to watch Barack Obama be elected the 44th president of the United States, the members of Breaking Ground invite students to leave the current world behind and travel back in time to the smooth melodies and intense patriotism of the 1930s.

Breaking Ground will host the Inaugural Ball Tuesday night in the Cloisters Club in Ida Noyes Hall. The theme of the ball will revolve around the beginning and end of the Great Depression, and the ballroom will be decked out in red, white, and blue.

Between 8 and 9 p.m. the aesthetic of the ball will slowly progress from the 1930s to the 1950s with a visual red, white, and blue theme and a live jazz band playing selections such as “Round Midnight,” “Mack the Knife,” and “My Funny Valentine.” As decades change thematically throughout the evening, a jazz band will play “radio broadcasts” in different music genres to signal the period shifts.

“The audience will not only get to hear the jazz band via the radio, but will also get to see them as they would have performed live on the air in the 1930s,” said fourth-year Emale Gray, one of the event’s main organizers. As guests walk through the venue they can expect to be captivated by several cultural collages illustrating changes over the past 80 years. Hors d’ oeuvres will be plentiful and refreshments will be flowing all night long.

Although Breaking Ground is trying to lighten up the mood in the midst of America’s current economic crisis, some students feel the theme isn’t appropriate for the occasion.

“I feel that the theme is anticlimactic,” second-year Jasmine Rabii said. “We need to look forward and not dwell on the current economy. Yes, we are in a recession, but people are happy and ready to move forward.”

Gray is quick to express that the theme incorporates both the beginning and end of the Depression, and the theme should not be taken completely at face value.

“The underlying theme is that underneath the red, white, and blue there are more colors that need to be represented,” Gray said. “Through the Inauguration Ball we intend to show the cultural change—or lack thereof—over the last 80 years, as well as the expectations of the current administration, in a passive way.”

Gray is one of the five founding members of Breaking Ground, an RSO that serves as a liaison between all of the RSOs on campus. The group encourages collaboration among different organizations to give a greater impact to each group’s message and activities. Gray feels that the main problem hindering many RSOs is that they are not communicating with each other.

“Most of the organizations on campus don’t talk to each other, and our goal is to change that,” he said. “The power of collaboration was obvious last year when several RSOs collaborated to produce the annual culture show with OBS [Organization of Black Students] as well as several extremely popular on campus parties.”

Third-year OBS member Julian Owens feels that it will be exciting to return to a time when American patriotism was at its high point.

“I really like the theme, and I’m looking forward to seeing the ball come into fruition,” he said. “Our economy is currently in a recession, and hopefully with the election of Barack Obama that can be fixed.”

Throughout the ball, cultural organizations on campus will perform two-minute spoken-word pieces to represent themselves. At 9 p.m., the jazz band, a soloist, and Rhythmic Bodies in Motion will play, sing, and dance to “A Change Is Gonna Come,” signaling the thematic transition from the ’60s to the ’80s. Clips of the inaugural address will air as the decade progresses towards the present.

Around 9:30 p.m., the jazz band will play Christina Aguilera’s “Candyman,” with Unaccompanied Women and Phi Gamma singing the male and female parts. To top it all off, Dance Marathon will perform while UChicago Hype also dances and energizes the crowd.

Toward the end of the night, MODA will hold a costume contest to see which U of C student has the best 1930s swag.

“We want to see a creative costume that fits with the patriotic theme but also shows some ‘fashion efficiency,’” said second-year Sarah Jahnke, the Director for Designer Relations for MODA. “We are looking for a ‘Recessionista,’ someone who is both fashion-forward and socially conscious and creates a stylish, environmentally sustainable, and economical costume.”

For U of C students eager to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama and have fun in the process, the spectacle and spirit of the events planned for the Inaugural Ball should satisfy students’ urge to celebrate. In Gray’s words, “when you enter the ball, expect to be enveloped in the patriotic feel of the 1930s and to be visually dazzled by the decked out and elegant ambiance.”