A variety of balls take place every year
Over 450 balls take place in Vienna every year: from the splendid Kaffeesiederball (coffeehouse proprietors’ ball) and the colourful Blumenball (flower ball) to the sugary Bonbonball, and of course the famous Opernball (opera ball), where for one evening the audience seating in the opera house makes way for a dance-floor. The Viennese celebrate Fasching (carnival) not on the streets, but rather in proper style in floor-length ball-gowns and tuxedos complete with rose-brooch and Damenspende (“ladies’ gift”), with fine delicacies from the city’s best restaurants – and, of course, in waltz time.
„Viel Vergnügen und alles Walzer!“ (“Enjoy yourselves and let the waltz begin!”) The traditional greeting at the Vienna Opera Ball.
„Alles Walzer!“(“Let the waltz begin!”)
is as much a part of Vienna’s ball-culture as the white dress is to the debutante. Yet it’s only since the 19th century that the Viennese have been tripping the light fantastic to the strains of waltzes. Prior to that it was frowned upon as vulgar and immoral because of its close bodily contact and vigorous movements. So much joie de vivre was too much for the upper classes.
It was the Congress of Vienna in 1814-1815, with its international representatives, which first made the waltz socially acceptable. The successful but protracted political negotiations were accompanied by legendary balls, giving rise to the famous saying “The congress is dancing, but not advancing”. And the congress danced… the waltz.
It was the Viennese family Strauss who significantly contributed to the dance’s popularity: father and son composed the loveliest waltz tunes, and Johann Strauss Jr. went down in history as the “Walzerkönig” (king of the waltz) with such famous pieces as the “Donauwalzer” (“The Blue Danube Waltz”).
Glittering balls characterise Faschingszeit (carnival period) in Vienna. However one Viennese ball stands out from all the others, and not only because of when it takes place: the Life Ball. It is one of the world’s biggest AIDS charity events: a colourful, loud and imaginative party in spring, a celebration of life that comes very, very close to the original joyous feeling of the waltz.
Text: Nina Lucia Groß, Fotos: Christine Wurnig