A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I attended the Royal Danish Air Force International Cadet Ball in Copenhagen. It’s a formal event that celebrates the graduating class and is attended by all cadets attending the school as well as some high-ranking Danish Air Force Officials. We were invited to attend as U.S. representatives.
The night before the event, we were invited to the Danish Air Force Academy for a dance lesson to learn Les Lanciers, a popular dance in Europe around the start of the 20th century among aristocrats. However, the Danes are the only ones still doing this dance, now making it a Danish tradition at university functions and special private functions.
They wanted to teach us as well as some others who were from other countries how to do the dance since it’s quite complicated. Think- Jane Austen, Colin Firth, Pride and Prejudice, women in corsets and dresses that require a team to assemble, and guys wearing bad wigs. Without explaining the dance, that’s the best way I can describe what it made me think of when we did it. I said to my husband, “I think they may do a dance similar to this in those Keira Knightley movies my girlfriends used to ask me to see.” It’s in that realm. If I had only stayed awake during those movies, then maybe I would have had a clue as to how to get my Les Lanciers groove on.
The dance practice was really fun, although there were a couple of challenges. The dance is a sequence of five dances. Five dances? That was four more than I was ready to learn. Plus, we had to dance in a circle with three other couples. Luckily, two of the other couples were Danish and knew how to do it. I laughed so much at the practice and was really looking forward to the dance. Although, I was somewhat concerned about doing the dance in 3.5-inch heels the following night!
The ball was held in a palace in downtown Copenhagen and there was a red carpet when we arrived. It felt so special, formal, and sort of Hollywood! I quickly forgot that only hours earlier, I was in my Hello Kitty T-shirt.
The Acting Commandant of the Danish Air Force Academy and his wife greeted us. We were served a cocktail and shortly after that moved into the ballroom. It was a long room with high ceilings and large paintings of men on the wall who looked like their pictures could be in history books. I’m not sure who they were, but the paintings were big and there were many! Shiny chandeliers and white candles with wax drippings decorated the room from one end to the other. I was there with my husband at this special event about to listen to interesting speakers, eat dinner and then bust out some Les Lanciers moves later in the evening. I thought, “How fun is this? “
We were ushered to our table and my husband told me we were at Table #1. Gee, that sounded nice. We’ll be close to the speeches and the piano player, I thought. Then I realized that I wasn’t sitting next to my husband. Alright, that’s not ideal. But we could make gestures and I could see him since he was directly across from me at a table of eight. I sat down in front of my name card and looked to my left and my right.
I had the Acting Air Force Academy Commandant on my left side and the Chief of the Danish Air Force on my right, who is the highest-ranking Air Force Official in Denmark. Was there a mistake? Why was I sandwiched between the two most high profile people here? What was I going to talk about? Would they want to hear about the three batches of donuts I just made? What could I ask them? Do you know Les Lanciers? How are the kids? Do you have kids? I wasn’t sure.
Well, they started talking to me and it was easy. They asked me how I liked Denmark. We talked a little bit about the differences between the U.S. and Denmark. We even talked about why the food is so great here. I love the veal and chicken in Denmark and can talk endlessly about it. So I talked about that for a while and was completely at ease. They spoke Danish with others at the table but they spoke English with me and I appreciated it.
When the first course was brought out, I forgot which fork to use. There were a lot of utensils in front of me. The Chief of the Danish Air Force could tell I trying to figure it out when he leaned over and said to me, “Eh, just get in there and use your hands! It’s fine!” I laughed and then started eating! We had veal and it was some of the best I’ve ever had. (Another shout out for veal in this post. I was serious when I said I liked it.)
There were several speeches given throughout the night. The most memorable were speeches given by the youngest male cadet and the youngest female cadet. They were poised, confident, and funny. The food and the wine were wonderful as was the company at the table. The dancing…well, we did it. It was a lot to remember, so I will admit that my husband and I went freestyle for a few steps. It was our version of “Dancing With the Stars”…something like, “Dancing with the Danes”.
It was a lovely evening, and although we’ll probably never dance Les Lanciers again, I have some new moves and a small interest in watching a Jane Austen movie with my eyes open instead of closed!