The 'kinetic light sculpture' in Tree CourtLouis Ashworth

When Gonville and Caius announced that its theme for 2016 would be ‘Praeternaturalia’, the general reaction was a surreptitious smartphone googling of the term, which means ‘beyond the natural’. Nevertheless, the result was an innovative event which kept all the traditional bells and whistles of a May Ball while adding its own twist.

Walking into Tree Court to the sound of soft background jazz, sipping a glass of champagne handed to you upon arrival,  you could have been forgiven for dismissing the event as standard May Ball fare. Yet as the night progressed, pulsating electric rhythms, produced by acts such as the Grammy award-winning Nero fostered an increasingly evocative and electric atmosphere that began to match the theme’s promise. In particular, the design centrepiece of the Ball, created by Paul Friedlander, an artist with an unconventional Maths and Physics background, resulted in an impressive visual spectacle; a 'kinetic light sculpture' influenced by String and Chaos theory, it successfully inspired attention until the early hours of the morning.

The theme was a slightly confusing yet bold choice from the committee Urvie Pereira

With regards to entertainment, an inflatable photobooth, a ‘Mermaid Cave’ for decorative glitter body art, and a solid schedule of student comedy and musical talent throughout the night were received well by Ball-goers. However, the standout features of the night were the opportunities for owl handling, a petting zoo, and sessions of macabre ‘life drawing’. Held in the college Chapel, and offering often-tipsy attendees the chance to try their hand at sketching a morbidly decorated nude model, these life drawing sessions possessed a controversial heretical element. An early morning céilidh dancing masterclass was also a delightful touch, with its sense of organised chaos acting as a non-caffeinated wakeup prompt.

Ultimately, the star of the evening was the culinary fare provided by local Cambridge café Aromi. Presenting traditional Sicilian cuisine such as pizza pancetta and arancini balls filled with ragu and mozzarella, as well as cannolicchi ricotta, the stall was frequented by satisfied attendees throughout the event. The cocktail bar, featuring concoctions like passion fruit and vanilla daiquiris, and long lychee martinis, also provided a plentiful source of alcohol from dusk till dawn.

Befitting its digital theme and taking advantage of our smartphone-dominated era, Caius May Ball this year also offered guests the chance to schedule reminders for evening entertainment, and locate friends with a specially commissioned app. While the interface of the app could have been improved aesthetically, and the digital map feature was unfortunately only available to those with iPhones, the app was an impressive addition to the evening. The Committee also demonstrated their commitment to the app’s functioning by installing Bluetooth beacons throughout the venue.

Altogether, as a creative endeavour, the Ball successfully broke boundaries. The only element missing was the lack of themed decorations apart from Friedlander’s sculpture and a few fairylights, which added to the ambiguity of the unconventional theme. Perhaps attendees left the Ball still slightly unsure as to the precise meaning of the ‘praeternatural’; however, regardless of the semantic confusion, this was an event that satisfied the stomach, and the senses.