Corps traditions kept alive via Regimental Ball

A scene from Regimental Ball in 1967.

A scene from Regimental Ball in 1967.

 

This weekend, the Corps of Cadets dons dress blues and gowns for the 53rd Annual Regimental Ball, which will celebrate the senior class of 2014.

The ball is coordinated by the corps’ Regimental S5 Section, which handles student activities, advised by the Director of the Campus Activities Board.

“I’m going to try and keep it as traditional as possible,” said section head cadet Maj. Brian Keville, a 22-year-old senior from Southboro, Mass. “I’m trying to keep it building off what the previous majors did to make it the best.”

As far as goals for the ball, Keville simply aims to make it enjoyable. “We want to make sure that the seniors at the ball are having a good time, and at the end of the night they can say that it was worth going,” he said.

“Besides Junior Ring [Ball], it’s the only corps-wide ball,” said Zac Milesky, 22, a senior communications major from Brewster, Mass.“Juniors have the Junior Ring [Ball], the seniors have the Regimental Ball.”

A senior social and a meal will be held in the Abare Rook Dining Hall prior to the ball. “It’s just a time for us to get together and relive the glory days,” Keville said. From there, couples will march down to Plumley Armory and enter under the arc of swords, held by trainees from NU’s Drill Company.

The class will be greeted by a receiving line consisting of NU President Schneider, Vice Presidents Vanecek and Huang, Commandant of Cadets Col. Russell Holden, and other VIPs. The schedule mirrors the first Regimental Ball, held in 1960.

According to an article in the March 11, 1960 edition of The Guidon, the first ball, then called the “Military Ball,” began with a “grand march led by General Harmon,” to Plumley. The event promised to “supply Norwich with far reaching and wholesome publicity.”

One of Keville’s goals for this weekend is to make sure everyone is behaving themselves. “We try to make sure people don’t do anything stupid,” he said, adding that their efforts seem to be succeeding more and more each year.

“There are people underage who will abuse alcohol,” said Gail Mears, director of health and wellness at NU. “Some will abuse a little bit, and some will abuse a lot. Most that abuse a lot, they frequently will create problems at the ball.”

Mears explained that the extent of the problem varies from year to year, as old students leave and new students take their place. It cannot be said whether the efforts of those like Mears and Keville are paying off, or whether it comes down to the character of the current population of the Corps of Cadets. Though many things stay the same, aspects of the ball continue to change with the times.

This year’s recently concluded government shutdown will actually take its toll on the ball, as the traditional shots fired for VIPs will not occur due to financial cutbacks. “With the shutdown, we just don’t have the resources,” said Keville.

With the entrance of the seniors, the ball will begin. “At the beginning there’s always traditional music, like tango,” which is “mostly for the commandants and their wives,” according to Drill Company Commander Melissa Grube. She added that the Ballroom Dancing Club gives a performance at that time as well.

In the middle of the ball, the DJ will warm up the crowd for a Corps tradition. Drill Company provides a small detail of cadets to perform exhibition drill. “It’s a privilege to perform in front of peers,” said Capt. Grube, a 20-year-old senior biology major from Allentown, Penn.

“Shock Platoon is our stage name,” Grube explained. “It’s traditional that the seniors are the only ones to perform exhibition as Shock Platoon for Regimental Ball because that’s their last performance, other than our competitions,” she added

Drill Company typically attends the ball in larger numbers in order to support their performers, Grube said. When the seniors perform, females are typically allowed the opportunity to do so in their gowns, rather than in uniform, which, for other performances, is mandatory. Grube called the tradition “empowering,” adding that “this way, they get to attend the ball in their gowns but still perform.”

However, Keville may have different plans for this year’s ball. “They have to be in full uniform,” he said. “No surprises. I don’t like surprises, especially on a large scale like this.”

Keville plans to make the entire ball “more professional” this year, including the drill team performance.

Still, the ball isn’t much different from half a century ago. “Changing things would ruin the idea of the Regimental Ball,” Keville said. After the ballroom dancing and drill team performance, there will be a chance to enjoy the “music of the day,” as it was put in the 1960 Guidon. Of course, in 1960, music was provided by the “Musical Messengers,” not Supersounds Entertainment, who provide the DJ this year, according to Keville.

In short, the ball promises to be traditional, yet entertaining. For the class of 2014, it is the one of their last opportunities to rally for a night of dancing and reminiscing to classics like “Goodnight Saigon.”

“One of the best parts from freshman year is getting to do “Goodnight Saigon” for the first time,” Milesky said, adding that “It’s a symbol of unity for your platoons because they’re your new family, in essence.”

The Billy Joel song is the last song played at Norwich social functions. “It’s kind of like an anthem,” Milesky explained. The song, from the album “The Nylon Curtain,” chronicles the experience of U.S. Marines during the Vietnam War, from basic training on Parris Island to the unspeakable horrors of the war. It emphasizes unity and brotherhood, suggesting that none of their experiences were possible without each other.

According to Milesky, the ball, and especially “Goodnight Saigon” is an almost indescribable experience. “It brings out what makes Norwich a special place.”

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