Emblazoned with the slogan ‘For real this time, maybe?’, Glitterball returned to St Andrews last Saturday night in all its sparkling glory. Hosted by the Saints LGBT+ subcommittee, the ball drew a large crowd to the marquee in the Spanish Gardens for a fun and fabulous night of dancing, drag, and music. The major draw for Glitterball attendees has consistently been its inclusivity, creating what Glitterball Coordinator Eve Davis refers to as a welcoming space where people are ‘free to express themselves’ and ‘feel at home’. The open dress code was one of my personal highlights of the evening, and I loved watching guests show up in everything from ballgowns to power suit moments, from minidresses to jumpsuits, reveling in aesthetics that were unique to each person there.
When I chatted with Eve about how it felt for Glitterball to be back, she was enthused about how amazing it was that the ball was finally happening after its long hiatus. She had been on the organisation committee in 2020, when Glitterball had been canceled only two weeks in advance – but now, the long-awaited event was finally being realised with a lineup of exciting national and local talent.
Attendees were welcomed to the rainbow-hued marquee with the funky sounds of Jazzworks and free prosecco waiting on the bar. The decor was perfectly suited to the space, and I’d love to see more balls with couches in the middle of the floor. An iridescent backdrop for photos was an increasingly popular spot throughout the night for attendees to grab their Insta-worthy shots and show off their outfits. At the bar, typical Union fare was accompanied by a selection of cleverly themed cocktails including the ‘Bimini Bombaylash’ and the ‘Blu Hydration’.
At around £40, Glitterball is one of the less expensive options for the St Andrews ball-goer, although still not exactly cheap. A lower ticket price does mean less free items for attendees, and prices of drinks and food truck options from Screaming Peacock, Bonnie Burrito, and Stubborn Slice do hike up the cost of attendance, but I think that this is more than made up for by the quality of the performances at Glitterball. After Jazzworks finished their ever-popular set, members of the Blue Angels dance team took to the stage to perform two routines in hip-hop and jazz styles, showing off dynamic, sharp, and synchronised moves which drew a large crowd to the stage, warming them up for the most anticipated part of the night – the drag performances. During our talk, Eve had told me that she was most excited for the headliner of Glitterball and to hear her sing live, but also was looking forward to seeing the local St Andrews drag talent take the stage.
Opening the night was one of St Andrews’s most well-known drag artists, the phenomenally talented former Drag Walk winner Vil. Taking to the stage in a corseted leather outfit and lip-syncing to Pat Benatar’s ‘Heartbreaker’, I found myself wondering where I could get half a drop of Vil’s natural charisma and presence. Even when performing for a few hundred ball attendees, Vil displays a rare quality of seemingly being able to connect with every person in the crowd. Vil’s second number later that night proved her versatility as she performed a passionate ballad in a stunning gown and a bejeweled crown atop her head, concluding the number as she waved the trans flag to waves of cheers which nearly drowned out the music. Joining her from the student drag scene was this year’s Drag Walk winner, Nimuë, whose Glitterball debut was rapturously received by the ball attendees. Nimuë gave us sultry, mysterious, and campy all at once as they took to the stage in yellow-tinted sunglasses, a blue glitter beard perfectly matching their gorgeously styled wig and a trenchcoat which they took off to reveal a slinky black jumpsuit. It’s a tough thing to open for two nationally acclaimed drag artists, but Vil and Nimuë both proved that they were more than up for the task, setting high expectations for the performances ahead.
St Andrews alumnus and now Glasgow-based drag artist Rujazzle brought the house down with her first lip-sync to Lady Gaga’s ‘Applause’, immediately engaging the audience to clap along with the beat of the music, and featuring a quirky reveal of a paint-splattered white smock dress. Her second number, full of tricks, a death-drop, and a literally wig-snatching moment brought out one of my favourite outfits of the night, a skin-tight blue bodysuit with fishnets and a glorious cropped jacket trimmed with feathers and voluminous puffed sleeves. But before the headliner of the night came on stage, Rujazzle treated the crowd to a massive sing-along of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, channeling her inner Freddie Mercury and proving that sometimes a great performance needs only to engage the crowd.
The headliner of Glitterball was none other than RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Season 3 finalist Ella Vaday, and the hype leading up to her performance was certainly deserved. Lucky guests who had won a meet-and-greet with Ella Vaday had nothing but positive things to say about the queen, and her presence offstage seemed to equal her performances onstage. Singing crowd-pleasing tunes from Elton John’s ‘I’m Still Standing’ to Shakira’s ‘Whenever, Wherever’, while also giving callbacks to her iconic Nigella Lawson impression on her Drag Race run, the volume of the crowd reached an all-time high as she strutted across the stage in a pair of stunning outfits. It was an excellent conclusion to the all-around excellent drag performances, switching up from the previous lip-syncs to show off Ella Vaday’s spectacular vocals, and segued perfectly into the DJ set which rounded off the night.
In conclusion, the long wait for Glitterball was more than worth it. With an incredible night of show-stopping talent, and a music selection which attendees told me they wished 601 would take notes on, ‘for real this time’ became ‘absolutely’.