|RIT’s Angela Johnson and Adam Handen dance at “Mysterious Me: A Gender Bender Masquerade Ball” on Friday, April 22.
The allure and mystery of the masquerade ball has always made for great fantasy. The face hidden behind each mask gives the illusion of danger, mystique and intrigue. It’s the perfect theme for a party, where the shawl of anonymity liberates each member from inhibition. This type of flair and pageantry made it an excellent premise for “Mysterious Me: A Gender Bender Masquerade,” sponsored by RIT’s GLBT Center and the Center for Women and Gender.
The occupancy of the SAU’s Al Davis Room hovered around 40 for the majority of the evening Friday, April 22. The atmosphere was decidedly genial as those in attendance socialized at tables decorated with Mardi gras-style flair. “DJ Brian” pumped out up-tempo remixes of Top 40 hits by the likes of Beyoncè, Lady Gaga and Britney Spears over a dance floor that would remain empty for most of the first half of the evening. Attendees posed for photos at a bright yellow backdrop along a far wall. For those who came without masks, free ones were given out at the door, though most people decided to do without.
The attendees’ attire ranged from business casual to impressive formal wear. Those who came dressed to the nines sported three-piece suits or brilliant evening dresses. The theme of the masquerade was the “gender bender,” a moniker that did not go unnoticed. There were women in tuxes and men in dresses, a testament to the safety and community of the event. The people here could express themselves in a way that might not be as well received as in other areas.
The evening began with the Lavender Recognition ceremony, which acknowledged eight members of RIT’s GLBT community who are graduating this spring. Those recognized received certificates and kind words from Nadine Hylton, the graduate assistant for the GLBT Center and one of the event organizers. Hylton and the other hosts and hostesses worked the room well, mingling with every partygoer they came across in an attempt to make everyone feel welcome. It seemed to work. People became more active, taking advantage of the dance floor and the photo booth. Partiers lined up for a buffet-style dinner and ate while waiting for the evening’s entertainment to begin.
Performing for the crowd that night were two drag queens, the ever-popular Samantha Vega and the recently crowned Ms. RIT, Angel Broadway. Vega took to the floor first, decked out in a shiny gold floor-length dress and a pair of remarkable heels. “Hey bitches!” Vega’s greeting drew a series of enthusiastic cheers from the crowd before the seemingly natural-born performer broke into a lip-synced rendition of Gloria Estefan’s “Words Get in the Way.” The cover was intercut with a humorous yet vulgar set of obscenities. Vega would do one more song before Broadway came out to perform to Britney Spears’ “Oops!… I Did it Again.” The two would each return to perform once more before the night was over.
After the performers, the attendees’ energy seemed to be elevated. Folks flocked to the dance floor to partake in group dances like the Casper Slide and finally seemed to be having the kind of uninhibited fun they had been close to all night. As the clock neared midnight, the room began to revert back from a golden carriage to a pumpkin as the props and decorations were taken down. The last few partygoers then took to the night like a procession of Cinderellas and Prince Charmings.