Viennese balls in Austria are
significantly different from those found elsewhere in the world. There
are hundreds of these professional/trade events every winter in Vienna:
- These events begin
around 9 PM and most run until 5 AM.
- The vast majority do not include dinner.
- Because Strauss and the waltz
are so commonplace in Austria, these events also include modern
ballroom and pop music. An orchestra and a dance band alternate
sets all night long.
Viennese balls outside of Austria
focus on Viennese music and dancing, which tend to make them very
unique and special experiences:
- These events usually start
earlier, and run until midnight or slightly later.
- Some of these events include
- Music is performed by an
orchestra that plays almost entirely Viennese waltzes and polkas,
although other dances such as tangos and foxtrots are sometimes included.
- The keyword for the ballroom is
elegance. It sets the atmosphere and ambiance for the entire
evening. If the setting for the dance is not elegant, whatever can
be done (lighting, flowers, accents…) should be included to enhance
- The dance floor should be
composed of wood or other similar hard surface.
- There should be a minimum of
10, with ideally 20 or more square feet of dance floor per person in
order to waltz. Floor space that is occupied by dining tables,
bars, the orchestra, etc. does not count. If it is known in advance
that only a small fraction of the attendees will be dancing then the
size of the dance floor can be scaled back accordingly.
- The dance floor must be
unobstructed, especially along the perimeter, so that dancers can
circulate around the room.
- A square dance floor is less
susceptible to congestion than a long, narrow dance floor.
- The temperature in the ballroom
should be kept cool.
- In order to waltz, it is
necessary that the orchestra maintain a fairly uniform tempo that
does not exceed 180 beats per minute (60 bars/measures per minute).
Some tempo variation is acceptable if it is gradual rather than
- The quality of the violins is
critical. Violin parts can be challenging. The sound of just one
less-than-accomplished violinist can be literally painful.
- Ideally, even a small orchestra
should contain woodwinds (flute, clarinet, oboe) and brass (french
horn, trumpet, trombone) in order to preserve the rich
orchestrations of Johann Strauss.
- The ball should begin with an
- Ideally, this will include a
large number of young couples, dressed in black and white, who
perform a polonaise and opening waltz. Another possibility is a
grand march by all attendees.
- The opening can also include a
brief opera, ballet, or orchestral performance.
- At the conclusion of the
opening the dance master will announce “Alles Walzer” (Everyone
Waltz!) for the first waltz.
- A Viennese Ball is not merely a
concert. Without dancers waltzing across the floor it is missing a
- The modern Viennese waltz is
not difficult, but like riding a bicycle, takes several hours of
practice to become accomplished. It is therefore counterproductive
to attempt to teach Viennese waltz lessons at the ball.
- For balls outside of Vienna
there should be lessons in advance of the ball. These lessons
should focus first on becoming comfortable with natural Viennese
waltz turns at gradually increasing tempos, rather than any waltz
- One option where there is
minimal lesson time is to instead teach the 19th century
rotary waltz, which can be picked up more rapidly than the Viennese
Waltz, and is a simple extension from the Galop and Polka.
- Major balls in Vienna include
the Fledermaus Quadrille at midnight. This is always a great deal
of fun. The steps are called out by the dance master and can be
picked up by first-time attendees at the ball, including those who
are not accomplished dancers. This is always followed by a galop.
- Balls in Vienna always conclude
with the slow waltz: Bruderlein Fein.
- It is essential that there be
ample supplies of beverages at the ball.
- It is best to avoid heavy meals
at a Viennese ball, as this can significantly increase the challenge
- The dress code for men is
usually Black Tie or White Tie.
- Women are usually requested to
wear floor-length dresses.
- At many balls in Vienna
admission is denied to those who do not meet the dress code.
- At balls that attempt to
recreate the atmosphere of the 19th century, it is
customary for dance cards to be given to all women.
- At a few of the more elegant
modern balls in Vienna this tradition has been translated into the
presentation of a small gift to all women attendees.