Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade Ball 2015
How does one even begin to encapsulate the Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade Ball, the 2 day event that passed this last weekend in Los Angeles? If you were a geek in the 80s, it is likely you were a fan of the cult classic Jim Henson Company film starring David Bowieís codpiece Ė Labyrinth - from which the event takes its name. It is also likely that you have strong feelings tied to one of the most magical scenes and songs from any movie ever. The scene I speak of, is of course...
While the Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade Ball (now in its 18th year), still takes heavy inspiration from the film, it has clearly transformed into its own beast. If you are an artist, costumer, performer, makeup artist, or lover of the fantastical in any form, it is likely you have attended this event. While many other events have tried to live up to the standards set forth by LoJ, none have succeeded. This is THE costumed event of the year, and for good reason.
It is my good fortune to belong to many costumed subcultures, all of which (and more) are represented here. Drag queens, cosplayers, re-enactors with the Society for Creative Anachronism, models, producers, designers, bodypainters, makeup artists, leatherworkers, blacksmiths, fetishists, furries, steampunks, goths, dancers, circus performers, aerialists, Faire-goers, fans and professionals alike are in attendance. We all enjoy several events throughout the year in our own fandoms Ė maybe even venturing outside them from time to time. But no event ties us costumed weirdos together so elegantly and so completely. Everyone has put together some of their most ambitious outfits of the season, even spending the entire year between Labyrinths working on a single outfit. The care people have put into their look is evident everywhere.
The event is completely immersive Ė while entirely based in fantasy, whimsy, and magic, LoJ has an air of realness about it. If youíve ever actually wanted to live in another world, even for a night, you can do it here. It is almost impossible to tell the performers apart from attendees. Spontaneous performances can begin around you at almost any moment and without warning. Dozens of people remained in character the entire evening and it is the easiest thing in the world to join them in the world they have created. The Scroogiest of curmudgeons could not leave the event without a smile on his face.
Performers have been rehearsing together for weeks to create this weekend for the rest of us. Costumers, builders, makeup artists, talent bookers, managers, puppeteers Ė everyone in team Sypher, have worked for months behind the scenes to bring life to this shared fantasy. I canít even begin to imagine the dedication it takes from the team to put on an event of this scale and quality.
This year, LoJ lost their venue with only a month remaining until the event. Labyrinth of Jareth was moved last minute to the (beautiful and historic) Biltmore in DTLA. Despite losing their venue, the team managed the impossible to pull things together and create a wonderful event. There were a few hiccups to be sure; the lines were unorganized, the people working the desk were clearly stressed out, and the flow of the building wasnít as easy to navigate as past years. But those are the only things I could find to complain about, because literally every other aspect of the event was perfect (well, except for the drinks being $9-$12 a pop at the annoyingly cash only bars, but I canít fault the event or the venue for wanting to make some money. Drinking is certainly not a pre-requisite to enjoy the event, where even children are welcome). Upon my arrival, I even witnessed someone who was refused entrance to the event because he arrived in jeans and without a mask. LoJ has a strict dress policy, not wanting to break the illusion for their attendees. While the man was annoyed, I have to admit I admired their dedication to the theme and their steadfastness to the rules. Look, buddy. Itís not about you. Itís about the entire experience. They work incredibly hard to create the setting. Donít ruin it for everyone by not playing along.
The event consists of several stages, dance areas, vendors, bars, and even tea service for the VIP attendees. Downstairs in the grand ballroom you can waltz, then walk outside to shop for quirky wares from quirkier vendors. Performers are everything from bellydancers, circus performers, themed bands, comedy troupes, and outrageous puppet shows. True to the spirit of Jim Henson, this place is all about practical effects and the makersí DIY spirit. Many of the performers are troupes that work together in producing their own events, but it is a completely different experience to watch them perform at an event and for an audience of this scale.
But of course, as a voracious consumer of art and theatrical costuming in general, my favorite part is people watching. In attendance is Sylva of Bubbles and Frown Haberdashery
; several of her fantastical headdress designs towering high above the rest of the crowd. There is Vanessa of Creature of Habit
with several women she has styled in her ethereal, sheer, form fitting lace designs. JoEllen of Firefly Path
also has a posse of her gorgeous designs, made for the highest royalty of elven princesses. Daisy Viktoria
and her boyfriend attract quite the crowd with her fabulous earthen dryad and ent ensembles, which are a joy to witness on the dance floor. Jessie Pridemore of Rufflebutt Cosplay
has created a trio of matching elvish designs covered in rhinestoned finery. Yume Ninja
has one of the most outrageous geisha wigs Iíve ever seen in my life. Tony Swatton and his wife, of Sword and Stone
/Man At Arms are decked out in full pirate garb and meticulously sculpted armor. Satine Phoenix
is one of the most elegant and beautiful high fashion elves you can imagine. Marisha Ray
is giving undead realness as Skarre from WARMACHINE. Vivid Vivka
flitters about the event with her girlfriends in their whimsical satyr ensembles. Brian Davis and wife Alyssa Rosales have created another pair of masterfully crafted costumes, this year as a demon and sea queen. Enasni Volz
is dressed as her trademark Harley Quinn, but a lovely masquerade re-imagining. Seeing so much talent in one place is a visual feast for the eyes, although I admit I was rather too starstruck to talk to any of them ☺
Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world for a reason. There is nothing else like it, and Labyrinth of Jareth is the best we have to offer. My point is, donít miss it. You donít get many chances to have this kind of experience. You will forever be grateful for it. Going back to the real world afterward, now that is the hard partÖ
(Geek Girl Mistress Zelda | Photo: The Frame Guy)
Photographers: John Truong Pictures
& Erzen Design
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August 21 2015