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All in a masquerade: Exit Dance Theatre to have a ball at costumed extravaganza | Lifestyles

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Come dressed for a distant time and place. To a masquerade.

Exit Dance Theatre will host “A Midwinter Night’s Masquerade Ball” next Friday, Feb. 8, at Newburyport City Hall. 

The evening, from 7:30 to 11, will transport tundra-weary souls to a carnival atmosphere. A place for the housebound to cast off fetters. And revel.

“Enchanting evening, isn’t it?” says a ballroom voice behind a face mask.

“Enchanté, enchanté,” responds the voice behind a stick mask.

“Shall we dance?”

There will be dance. Lots.

Dancing, dance performance and a dance lesson — the minuet. And an aerialist twirling from on high. The woman furling and unfurling in silk, that’s Sarah Webb of Merrimac.

Like any ball from the last 600 years, at this one, dancers will move to live music. These court musicians will be from the band Nomadic Grooves.

Exit Dance’s co-artistic director, Wendy Hamel, will sing, likely a Susan Tedeschi number. And Amanda McGranahan of Salisbury will serenade the crowd with a bit of opera.

Guests will see an Exit Dance preview, an interpretation set to The Beatles’ masterpiece “Eleanor Rigby.” 

The elegant must dine.

And dine they will, nibbling creations by chef Jason Piacentini of Mystic Station in Malden along with specialties by members of the dance troupe.

Last year, Darlene Doyle, an Amesbury resident and Exit dancer since 2006, made skewers of mozzarella and basil and tomato, as well as kielbasa. Something cold and something hot.

Another dancer brought bacon-wrapped dates with almonds. Expect equally refined selections in 2019.

The evening promises whimsy and spontaneity.

“There is a mystique to wearing a mask; we get to do something completely different,” said Susan Atwood, one of Exit Dance’s founders.

While the entertainment is planned, its timeline will unfold appropriate to the evening, its mood.

All of a sudden, an actor may deliver a monologue. 

Erin Staffiere choreographed Exit’s first masquerade ball dance, two years ago. She based it on Edgar Allen Poe’s works.

Staffiere likes how the ball can be whatever people want it to be. The allure is getting to be somebody else, she said.

Or somebody you used to be.

“My niece is coming in her prom gown,” Atwood said.

Organizers encourage guests to come in historically inspired costumes. Or as they wish.

The evening is a fundraiser for the nonprofit modern dance troupe, which is now in its 32nd year and is based at The Tannery Marketplace in Newburyport. Proceeds will help pay for a tour outside the United States.

Historically, masquerade balls have marked auspicious occasions, celebrating events involving royalty. They were popular in Europe during the Renaissance. Popular in both life and mimesis. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers, meet at a masquerade ball.

Masquerades remained part of the Western tradition as pre-Lenten celebrations during Carnival.

For Exit dancer Yori Thomas, a Newburyport resident who had a baby a couple of weeks ago, the ball will be a midwinter relief.

“I want to be out of the house,” she said.

If you go

What: “A Midwinter Night’s Masquerade Ball”

When: Friday, Feb. 8, 7:30 to 11 p.m. Snow date is Saturday, Feb. 9.

Where: Newburyport City Hall, 60 Pleasant St.

How much: $35, available at The Dance Place, 50 Water St., Newburyport, or online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3922093

More information: 978-465-1485 or www.exitdancetheatre.org

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