Students kick off end of semester with Sean Kingston concert, 116th Fancy Dress

The circus-themed ball brought a taste of the big top to Washington and Lee


Catherine McKean

Circus performers put on a show at Fancy Dress. Photo by Catherine McKean, ’24

Catherine McKean, Arts & Life Editor

On March 22, the General Activities Board (GAB) brought American singer and rapper Sean Kingston to Washington and Lee for an evening of music and nostalgia.
The 33-year old singer, best known for his hit songs “Beautiful Girls” and “Fire Burning,” performed to the college community in a tent on Cannan Green. He expressed excitement about the “big show” on his Instagram prior to arriving in Virginia.
Doors to the kickoff concert opened at 8p.m., with student band “Meat Puzzle” opening for Kingston. The band also opened for B.O.B. at last year’s winter concert and has become a regular presence at other campus events.
Kingston took the stage an hour later, starting his set with “Me Love” and 2007 hit “Take You There.” He also sang crowd favorites including his most popular songs and “Eenie Meenie,” encouraging the audience to sing along, and covered other well-known hits like Iyaz’s “Replay.”
Madison Sumatra, ’23, said that she grew up listening to Kingston, who was most popular between 2007 and 2013, and that getting to see him perform live was amazing.
“It was so fun, and I knew every single song that he sang,” she said. “Being at that concert was like reliving my childhood.”
Lucy Eagleson, ’24, said that seeing Kingston live “exceeded all of her expectations.”
“It was really fun to be able to hear him perform all the songs that I hear almost every weekend,” she said. “I’d never seen him sing live before, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but I had a great time.”
Kingston was announced as GAB’s 2023 Winter Artist on March 10. GAB committee members chose him as the headliner event from a list of potential artists, including Saint Motel and Desiigner. Tickets were sold the following week at $25 each, a slight increase in price from the $20 for last year’s concert.

All 500 tickets to his performance were sold within hours of tabling, prompting disappointment from students who were not able to secure a ticket.

A Black man wearing a letter jacket and jeans sings into a microphone on a stage. The stage lighting is blue.
Sean Kingston performs at the 2023 Winter GAB concert. Photo courtesy of the GAB Instagram page

The tickets were capped at 500 due to the safety standards of the Cannan Green tent, which is the temporary space for special events while Evans serves as the main dining hall. Students were invited to add themselves to a waitlist.
Other students who weren’t able to buy a ticket were still able to hear the performance from their balconies in the Woods Creek Apartments and Third Year Housing, and some students gathered around Cannan Green for a peek of Kingston through the clear parts of the tent.
As he left campus, Kingston thanked the university for hosting him and stopped for a few pictures with audience members. He later posted a video of him saying “shout out to all the fans, shout out Washington and Lee” to his Instagram story.
The GAB winter concert has traditionally served as the official kickoff to the Fancy Dress weekend, with this year’s ball being on March 25.
Since its creation in 1907, the Fancy Dress ball has taken on a new theme every year that influences the decoration of the dance space. Past themes have ranged from medieval courts to the roaring 20s to the fictional worlds of iconic movies.
This year, that theme was “The Greatest Show,” a reference to the 2017 movie titled “The Greatest Showman” about the life of P.T. Barnum and his circus.

For this edition of the ball, Fancy Dress tri-chairs Emma Smith, ‘23, Reevie Fenstermacher, ‘23 and Mary Margaret Greer, ‘24 wanted to create a unique and memorable experience that could be enjoyed by everyone.

“[Fancy Dress] is one of few social events that includes the entire school – from undergraduates, to law students to alumni,” said Smith. “It was canceled in 2020 and 2021, and due to the cancellation, many students had never attended Fancy Dress until last year and were eager to do so. We hoped to maintain that same excitement as we celebrate the 116th annual Fancy Dress.”

Planning for each ball begins in the fall term, but members of the Fancy Dress committee had been considering taking on a circus theme for the past few years and were very enthusiastic about being able to finally bring the theme to life.

“When we came across the idea of The Greatest Show, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to exercise that theme, while adding a more sophisticated tone,” said Smith.

Decorations included the traditional red and white curtains of circus tents, an assortment of animal statues made by Mark Cline, the same artist who made the dinosaur statues at last year’s dance, fun house mirrors, live acrobatic performances, jugglers and many bright and colorful lights.

Although some students were initially skeptical of how the theme would be executed, many were impressed by the set-up and able to enjoy the circus atmosphere.
“It turned out so good. I’m having a great time,” said Hayley Huber, ’23, at the dance. “The lights are really cool, the performers are really cool, my date is really cool. I wasn’t sure what to think about the theme at first, but it’s so much better than I could have imagined. I’m really happy that there’s not a clown.”
Other students found the live performances unsettling, with several anonymous Fizz posters calling the “dolls hanging from the ceiling” and “[people] dancing in cages” too weird for their tastes.
Despite this, attendees were able to have a good time as they enjoyed live music from a cover band called The Jack Faulkner Orchestra, a free photobooth and the beer garden on Cannan Green.
Many students enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate and spend a fun evening with their friends and classmates, especially as the winter term comes to an end.
“There’s so many people here that I’ve never seen outside of the classroom,” said Emma Butler, ’23. “I’m really happy to finally be able to chat with people, get to know them better, see them all dressed up. It’s been a good night.”