Time to break out the evening gowns and tuxedos—it’s ball season in Vienna. Now through mid-February, over 400 different balls are taking place across the Austrian capital. Here’s the lowdown on what Vienna’s ball season is all about.
Starting in the 18th century, balls were social gatherings that gave nobility the exclusive opportunity to dress up and celebrate together. Today, these prestigious, formal events are open to the general public, but many of the same courtly traditions and customs still exist.
Many balls are hosted by professional groups and organizations, including coffeehouse owners, students, lawyers and doctors. The Bonbon Ball, thrown by the confectionary industry, offers sweet treats and even crowns a “Miss Bonbon” each year. The Musikverein concert hall transforms into an elegant ballroom once a year for the Vienna Philharmonic Ball, often considered one of the top events of the season.
Strict practices around attire and etiquette must be followed at Viennese balls—the New Year’s Eve ball at the Hofburg, for example, requires women to wear floor-length gowns and gentlemen to wear either tails, a tuxedo or military uniform. These rules are not to be taken lightly, either: A ball’s committee can refuse admission to guests deemed not suitably dressed for the occasion!
Balls traditionally begin with an opening ceremony and entrance of debutantes in a procession. Once “Alles Walzer” (which translates to “everyone waltz”) is called out, the rest of the guests are officially invited to join the open dance floor. Then, partners pair up for the classic Viennese waltz. This famous dance style is known for its whirling movements and quick turns. While the waltz paired with music of composers like Johann Strauss plays a huge role at every ball, some modern music is often mixed in for variety.
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