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Attending the Ball

 

Because balls in Vienna do not usually start until later in the evening (9 pm), it is customary to have dinner several hours before the ball commences.  Otherwise, it can be somewhat more challenging to dance the Viennese Waltz immediately after a large meal.  However, some balls, especially in the US, may include dinner.

Thirty minutes or an hour after doors open Viennese balls formally begin with the opening ceremony, which includes a polonaise, a waltz, and either the Fledermaus Quadrille or an originally choreographed dance. This is always performed by the opening committee, which consists of dozens of young couples dressed in black (men) and white (women).  The opening ceremony may also include short ballet, opera, or orchestral performances, as well as a brief speech by a prominent dignitary

Outside of Vienna,  balls that do not include an opening ceremony will often begin the evening with a Grand March in which everyone may participate.  .

The opening ceremony ends with the proclamation “Alles Walzer!" (Everyone waltz!)  Attendees flood the dance floor for the very first waltz.  Ironically, the floor becomes so densely packed that it is not actually possible to dance the Viennese Waltz.

The more traditional Viennese balls will consist almost entirely of Viennese waltzes and polkas.  The evening could also include a few modern ballroom dances, such as a Tango or Foxtrot.  However, the large balls in Vienna also include a significant mix of latin, swing, and pop music.   At or after midnight it is also customary for attendees to form long lies across the ballroom to dance the Fledermaus Quadrille.

One should be cautioned that in Vienna there are hundreds of balls every winter, some of which are not very traditional, with a few "balls" where there is no dancing at all!

In Vienna, unless “lady’s choice” is specifically announced, the gentleman is expected to ask the lady to dance, and it is not common for them to ask a total strangers.

It is standard ballroom etiquette that if a gentleman asks a lady to dance, she will not casually decline his request.  If she is temporarily unavailable for this dance because she has already promised this dance to another gentleman, is tired, or unfamiliar with this dance, then she should ask if she can dance with him at a later time.  Accepting a dance does not necessarily imply any personal attraction or social commitment to the gentleman.

The most proper way for a gentleman to ask a lady to dance is to ask if he might have the honour of dancing with her.  At the beginning of the dance he will offer his right arm to the lady, who will place her left hand on his arm and walk with him onto the dance floor.  At the very beginning and end of the dance they may bow and curtsey to each other.   Unless they decide to continue for the next dance, he will again offer his right arm and escort her off of the dance floor.  He should never abandon her in the middle of the dance floor.

Gentlemen have the obligation to make sure that all ladies are asked to dance.  If a gentleman sees a lady who has not been asked to dance for a long time then he should take the initiative to ask her to dance once, even if he finds her personally unattractive.  (The Mr. Darcy mentality is not strongly recommended.)  Asking a woman to dance does not necessarily imply any personal attraction or social commitment to the lady.  If the lady is married or came to the ball with a partner then it is best for him to first ask her partner if he could dance with her.

A gentleman should never try to ask a lady to dance while she is currently dancing with someone else. Cutting in is considered rude and unacceptable ballroom practice.   The lady should decline such a request and instead suggest a later dance.

Faster dancers circulate along the perimeter of the ballroom.  Slower couples dance closer to the center.  Always move along the line of dance, never against it.  Only slow down or stop temporarily if your path ahead is blocked by others.  At times when the floor is too densely packed to dance the Viennese Waltz, it may be best to wait a few dances for the crowds to thin.