Jennifer Atkins, "New Orleans Carnival Balls: The Secret Side of Mardi Gras, 1870-1920" (LSU Press, 2017)

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In New Orleans Carnival Balls: The Secret Side of Mardi Gras, 1870-1920 (LSU Press, 2017), Dr. Jennifer Atkins draws back the curtain on the origin of the exclusive Mardi Gras balls, bringing to light unique traditions unseen by outsiders.

The oldest Carnival organizations emerged in the mid-nineteenth century and ruled Mardi Gras from the Civil War until World War I. For these organizations, Carnival balls became magical realms where krewesmen reinforced their elite identity through sculpted tableaux vivants performances, mock coronations, and romantic ballroom dancing.

They used costume and movement to reaffirm their group identity, and the crux of these performances relied on a specific mode of expression—dancing. Using the concept of dance as a lens for examining Carnival balls, Atkins delves deeper into the historical context and distinctive rituals of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Jennifer Atkins is graduate program director at Florida State University’s School of Dance.

Emily Ruth Allen (@emmyru91) is a Ph.D. candidate in Musicology at Florida State University. She is currently working on a dissertation about parade musics in Mobile, Alabama’s Carnival celebrations.

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