Tuesday, March 29, 2011

May I have this waltz?

Lisa and I went to a ball a couple of years ago -- one of the many inaugural balls held throughout Washington, DC following President Obama's inauguration -- and although that particular event qualified as a "ball", any similarity it has with a Viennese ball ends with the inclusion of "ball" in the name.  According to the ball guide assembled by one of the local dance schools, there are no less than 140 balls scheduled from late December through the end of March, although a handful occur later in the year.  (The official ball calendar underestimates the total number of balls -- the number easily doubles if you include those balls not listed as well as those occurring outside of the larger Austrian cities.)  Every ball has a distinct personality determined, more or less, by the organization hosting the ball.  Among the three balls we went to, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Ball was the most elegant and had a bit of international flair since many of the attendees work at the UN.  The Rudolfina Redoute (Masquerade Ball) featured a younger crowd where the females were encouraged to wear a mask.  And the third ball, the Irish Charity Ball, was the most indulgent:  unlimited Guinness beer and Jameson whiskey were included with the price of admission!  Naturally, this ball has a reputation for turning into a total shit show.

Virtually all balls are black-tie events with the women expected to wear modern, floor length ball gowns, and the men expected to wear tuxedos/smoking jackets.  The Irish Charity Ball, however, wasn't quite as strict:  women were allowed to wear cocktail dresses and the men were permitted to wear suits.  Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the balls are all-night affairs:  most balls start sometime between 8 and 9PM and go until 5AM.  I've grown so accustomed to the standard ~1AM last call in the United States that the prospect of dancing and drinking until 5AM seems unfathomable.  I'm not sure how the Viennese do it.  But they do.  And this is us trying to.

The IAEA Ball is a pretty regal affair...fortunately they let me in
Dance performance before the debutantes make their debut
The debutantes and their partners
On the way up to the main ballroom in the Hofburg Palace (IAEA Ball)
The Hofburg palace is enormous and feels even more so when trying to navigate the many rooms, halls, and corridors.  Many of the larger and classier balls -- the IAEA and Masquerade balls included -- have both a string orchestra and brass band alternating in the main ballroom where the dances danced include the Viennese waltz, slow waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, cha cha, rumba, and tango, among others.   The remaining rooms may have smaller bands or DJs catering to all manner of taste -- the IAEA ball had a salsa room and the Masquerade ball had an electronica room -- so it would be difficult to not find somewhere to dance.  Below is the room where our table was located at the masquerade ball...
Waltzing to an electric guitar is possible
as well as a few more pics from the ball.
The mask remains on until midnight -- at which point the woman reveals her identity...
...to her suitor.
The girls...
...the guys
The Irish Charity Ball, unlike the IAEA and Masquerade balls, revels in its less elegant purpose:  to drink and raise money for charity.  
Guinness #1!
Bagpipes aren't just a Scottish thing...
Unlike the other balls we went to, this one included dinner (aside from that meal in a glass:  Guinness)
Mixing it up with a Jameson and Ginger Ale. 
I'm, I'm...so proud. That a girl!
Let's see:  one, two, three, four, five?  yes...that's right -- five pints of Guinness!

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