As he points out, a ball is "the ultimate occasion for a heady kind of courtship – a trying out of partners that is exciting, flirtatious and downright erotic". Mullan's book What Matters in Jane Austen? (now in paperback) is excellent (certainly far better than the patronising cover and subtitle 'Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved'). Dedicated to the great critic Tony Tanner, who also wrote on Austen, it has many of Tanner's qualities, perceptively following ideas through the novels, such as names, money, intimacy, the lower classes and lots more. Highly recommended.
Below, the ball from the 1995 BBC version.