Renaissance club offers glimpse of medieval culture

GVL / Hannah Mico. Michael Currie, junior, displays how a weapon might have been used by a middle-class knight in the renaissance era.

GVL / Hannah Mico. Michael Currie, junior, displays how a weapon might have been used by a middle-class knight in the renaissance era.

Peter Chhum

Students at Grand Valley State University traveled back in time on Friday and partied like it was the year 600. The Grand Valley Renaissance Club’s “Duke’s Ball 2014: Myths and Mythology” featured medieval memorabilia, characters in costumes and live music in an effort to educate while celebrate.

The Duke’s Ball is one of the two major events hosted annually by the club, the other being the Renaissance Festival held during the fall. While the festival is a greater attraction, the ball aims for what the festival misses: accuracy.

“This is our more historically accurate event that we do. It’s the club getting together with the purpose to educate people and it’s something we really enjoy doing,” said Conor Kelly, president of the Renaissance Club. “We’re putting on a series of presentations, dances and playing music — ultimately putting on a medieval renaissance that you would see people doing all those years ago.”

The Duke’s Ball specializes in a historically accurate exposition. The theme of this year’s ball was mythology.

“We’re trying to return to the history of the Renaissance which is giving an interest to how people actually acted and dressed back then,” said Jerry Berg, head of the history committee of the Renaissance Club. “When the average person thinks of the Renaissance, they picture knights, kings and peasants. If they watch TV, they would think of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, but those are more based on fantasy. At events like this, they can see this culture, the mythology and stories that go so much deeper and show all of the history involved.”

Presentations were given from both students and professors about ancient myths along with weapons that included swords, shields, axes and a knight’s armor.

“Over the years it has turned into a fantasy festival where people show up as elves or witches, and it’s almost gotten away from the renaissance history,” Berg said. “We’ve tried to filter out the fairies and the pirates and focused really hard on the years of 600 to 1600 for the event.”

In between presentations, attendees were shown a collection of medieval dances escorted by music from the “Olde World Music Club,” a musical group that specializes in longstanding Renaissance and medieval song styles.

“We play Celtic music, old German music and old Latin music even. Our songs are basically all from the Renaissance era and the Middle Ages,” said Martha Matusik, vocalist of the Olde World Music Club. “It’s really fun. While you learn the songs, you also learn a lot of different cultures through music and are able to teach the audience, as well. I also really like the music; (the songs) are really catchy and easy to dance to.”

Matching the trend of the ball, the dances were first demonstrated and then taught to participants.

“A lot of (the dances) are very flirtatious because they would be held at a ball,” Kelly said. “In this case, the Duke’s Ball and flirtation would be shown through someone’s dancing. Even the dances are historically accurate, so you can learn while you’re doing. We just want people to have a good time, to completely enjoy it and be part of the feeling. We want them to have a good time and to learn something while they do.”

[email protected]