Today we’d like to introduce you to Tim Steinmeier.
Tim, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
The Jane Austen Evening is an afternoon and evening of tea, discourse, music and dance in the spirit of the estimable Miss Austen. Walter Nelson produced the first Jane Austen Evening in January of 1998. It has occurred every year since then. Tim & Gayle Steinmeier took over in 2007 and formed a non-profit organization, and a committee of dedicated volunteers, to keep it going.
It started out as a relatively small event with perhaps 100 attendees. After an article appeared in the Westways Magazine, we’ve been sold out every year. In fact, the event is so popular that the 300 tickets sell out in a few minutes. People really enjoy the experience of stepping back into a time period where elegance and manners were the norm. It’s the closest thing to time travel that exists today. Although not mandatory, a high percentage of our guests wear period outfits. For those without costumes, formal attire is required. This sets the tone for the evening. Many people bring their own tea service (fine china, teapots and silverware) and decorate their tables with fancy candelabras, flowers, and vintage napkins. It is very exquisite.
We offer two dance classes prior to the event to prepare our guests for an enjoyable time. Every dance is choreographed with a set pattern that repeats over and over for the length of the dance. Each couple will dance the pattern with another couple. Once that repetition has been completed each of those couples move on to dance it again with a new couple. The dance master/mistress will call each dance, so the dancers know what to do. In Jane Austen’s time, this would not have been necessary, as the dancers would have learned these dances as part of their normal childhood education. Unfortunately, that is not the case today.
The afternoon begins at 4:00 p.m with a high tea and usually features some entertainment. Usually this is a short talk about subjects that would have been part of Jane Austen’s social life, such as etiquette, dance styles, food & drink, dueling, attire, etc. One of our most interesting presentations described the process of how Jane Austen got her books published. Sometimes there will be a musical interlude, with no other presentation. Every few years we feature an improv group doing Jane Austen characters. The tea ends at 6:00 p.m., and there is a break until 7:00 p.m., at which time the evening ball begins. Dances are from the time of Jane Austen and are called by a friendly, knowledgeable dance master/mistress. Music for the dances is provided by a live ensemble, usually consisting of five members. There are four to five dances each hour, with a refreshment breaks in between. The evening ends at 11:30.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As with any successful event, it has had its challenges. The main obstacle has been to find an affordable venue that is large enough to accommodate approximately 300 people. There are fewer of these places still in existence with a historical ambience and a wooden dance floor. The Pasadena Masonic Temple has been the ideal venue for us.
The second most challenging aspect has been the fact that we cannot accommodate everyone who would like to attend. Even if we could find a suitable larger venue, it would be near impossible to handle any more dancers than we have right now.
A third challenge was finding an excellent caterer for what we require. We try to provide a high tea that would have been served in the time of Jane Austen. Our original caterers retired a few years ago, prompting a search for a new caterer. “Sweet Heaven” has been the answer to that challenge.
And the last obstacle is finding proper period musicians. We recruited a new five-piece ensemble last year, and the music has been wonderful.
The Jane Austen Evening – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We are a California non-profit corporation, whose mission is to preserve, promote, educate and develop historical dance, with an emphasis on the Regency Period.
Currently, we are the largest, most popular vintage dance event held in Southern California.
Our goal of creating a historically accurate and very elegant experience of the Regency era has been achieved as far as possible, under modern norms.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
This is more of a personal history:
My wife has participated in historical dance since elementary school. She makes many of her own outfits.
My folks belonged to a group of folk dancers who that performed all over Southern California, including Disneyland during the winter holidays. I guess some of that rubbed off on me. We have performed for over ten years with Yesteryears Dancers at numerous venues throughout the area.
We love history and are docents at the International Printing Museum in Carson, CA.
- Website: http://janeaustenevening.org
- Email: email@example.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AustenEvening/