Viennese Ball .org

Having a (Viennese) Ball

Hints for Planning a Successful Event

 

 

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 dinner.
  • 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.

 

Ballroom

  • 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 experience.
  • 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.

 

Orchestra

  • 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 abrupt.
  • 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.
 

Opening

  • The ball should begin with an opening ceremony.
  • 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.

 

Dancing

  • A Viennese Ball is not merely a concert.  Without dancers waltzing across the floor it is missing a vital ingredient.
  • 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 variations.
  • 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.

 

Food

  • 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 of waltzing.

 

Dress

  • 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.

 

Dance Cards

  • 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.