We were transported via a tunnel deep below the sea to another land, one where magical beasts appeared as visions for one night only. Transported back in time amidst the grand chambers and ballroom of Concert Noble in Brussels (a palace of a place commissioned by Leopold II in 1873 and decorated in Louis XVI style), to an age that didn’t exist – the world of The Swan Princess. It was a Tchaikovsky-Aronofsky-Gothic-Historical-Fantastical melange of ballgowns, taffetas and feathers – many feathers. There were swans aplenty, of both black and white variety as well as a number of other feathered specimens pimping and preening as they flocked together. I chose to be a peacock amongst swans with plumage by Faerie Tale Gothic and Alchemy’s Caput Aves completing the look.
Gala Nocturna is now in its 9th year and has easily become the most famous and extravagant dark romantic ball worldwide. Run by photographer Viona Ielegems and her husband Dirk von Heinrichshorst (read my interview with them here) each year is based around a theme and guests relish in interpreting through their outfits. This year The Swan Princess was chosen with the opening act being a performance from Swan Lake and a buffet billed as being “for true swans only” where guests were surprised with insect pâté and mealworms on toast – I thought this was an amusing and brilliant inclusion.
While the ball sprung from the Gothic and Alternative scenes it has now grown to attract people of all persuasions that have a fascination with fantasy and costume and a desire to get lost in a magical world, even if just for one evening. The guest-list still always reads like a whos-who of the Goth world glitterati and the music flows between melodic ethereal and darkambient with a few dramatic goth classics and Classical tracks to round it off.
This event is certainly something every person should experience at least once. Don’t be put off by feeling you need to stick religiously to the theme or invest hundreds in an outfit, a simple black evening gown or suit will suffice – and would probably be easier to navigate in too! And actually, this was unfortunately a real problem for me this year – attempting to wade through a sea of crinolines and doge wings and headdresses. The venue apparently has a capacity of 750 and there were just over 600 in attendance – but it really was too crowded. The queues and lack of seating finally wore me down and I left early. I’m hoping the venue either changes for next year or they cap the numbers. My favourite location so far was Antwerp Zoo last year where the theme of Beauty and the Beast was most fitting and the ballroom had a wonderful outside space. But despite these mild irritations, it still remains a dream of an evening and an experience that you’ll remember forever.