There are more than 300 if you include ones not listed in the published calendar. These are not predominantly Viennese Waltz balls, but most have a fair amount of Viennese Waltz. Some are hosted by the city, others by occupations and trades, churches, organizations etc. but are still open to the public. Their balls are nearly all black tie events with ladies dresses required to be ankle length. Ladies wear mostly modern ball gowns, and only debutantes wear white ball gowns. Why is Vienna so special in this regard? Emperor Joseph II, 1741-1790, had more respect for the common man and less respect for nobility than the average royal. He decided that the ballrooms in the Hofburg palace should not be reserved just for nobility. In 1773 he made the ballrooms available for public balls for the common man.
Each ball begins with an opening ceremony that includes a dance show. The show starts with the officers of the organization hosting the ball marching in and taking their places on the stage, with maybe a speech or two. The rest of the show is a dance performance that usually does not last more than 30 minutes. The show is usually, but not always, performed by young people, with the young ladies in white ball gowns and the young men in tux or tails. The debutantes and men dance the first waltz of the evening. Once completed the ball officially opens and all guests are invited to join them on the dance floor.
My husband and I have attended many balls since arriving here and each one comes with its own unique experience. I loved the Officer’s Ball as I got to see various uniforms from around the world. And you know what they say about men dressed in uniform right? It’s nice on the eyes.
The Regenbogen Ball (Rainbow Ball) is a colourful experience. It’s like the Toronto Pride Parade ended at the Hofburg Palace! So much fun. The Jägerball is another Austrian favourite where you dress in traditional costume.
My favourite I think is the Fete Imperiale Ball from the Spanish Riding School. Being a horse nut might have something to do with it. While the Lipizzaner horses are on summer vacation their stables are transformed into an elegant ballroom.
The most famous ball of all is the Opera Ball. People from around the world, including celebrities flock to the city to take part. Austrian millionaire Richard Lugner has a nearly 20-year-old tradition of flying in a date for the Vienna Opera Ball. Each year he chooses a celebrity date to accompany him to the event.
Now after a night of waltzing you’d think that there was some sort of elegant food available to nibble on. Available. Yes. Elegant. No. The traditional food to eat at a ball is “Sacher Würstel” or Goulash Soup. Doesn’t look pretty but it’s damn tasty.