When I was in preschool, I unashamedly announced that I wanted to be a princess when I grew up. When I was in middle school, I played Cinderella in Into the Woods Jr. and imagined what going to the ball would be like. When I was in high school, I donned a tiara and played a Baroness in my choir’s madrigal gala and had a masquerade ball for my 18th birthday. Now, as a 21-year-old college student, my lifelong dream has (almost) come true because, on Friday night, I attended a real-life Viennese ball.
As I researched information about Vienna many months ago, I naturally found blog posts and websites about Vienna’s ball season. In case you don’t know, balls are a huge deal here because the original waltz, the Wiener Walzer or Viennese Waltz, was developed here! This is not to be confused with the much slower variations of the waltz that developed later- the Viennese keep the tempo fast and frantic (at least for those of us who are rather inexperienced). Unfortunately, for those who study abroad in the fall, we don’t get to experience the height of ball season, which is in January and February. However, there are a few balls before the new year, including the opening ball of the season, the Rotkreuz (Red Cross) Ball, which I got to attend!
The Wiener Rotkreuz Ball is hosted at the Neogothic Rathaus every year in mid-late November. The ball also serves as a charity event for the Red Cross. Each year it has a different international theme with a focus on a specific country’s culture. This year it was Italian themed, with gelato, Prosecco, and all, and next year it will be Swedish! They sell discounted student tickets, and for IES Abroad Vienna students, the center actually purchased our tickets as a group and we got them for almost half the student price! For under €20, we got to get glammed up and dance the night away like royalty in one of Vienna’s most iconic and beautiful buildings. Living the dream!
If you, like me, are intent on attending a ball during your time in Vienna, you will want to do some planning ahead! For example, you should decide whether you are going to bring a dress/tuxedo from home, or buy/rent one once you’re here. I chose to bring one so that I would not have to worry about finding one or spend money that I could use on something else, but many of my friends found lovely dresses at stores in Vienna! For a cheaper option, you can look at T.K. Maxx or local thrift shops. If you want to spend a little bit more, Peek & Cloppenburg or other department stores near IES Abroad in the 1st district have large dress departments. I have heard that rentals can be quite expensive, so you may want to invest in a dress instead of renting one. Also, consider what accessories you will need to bring or buy. I bought a pair of inexpensive heels here, but brought jewelry with me. I had to buy a mask, as well, because of the ball’s Venetian masquerade theme, but that was only for this year’s ball!
Going to a ball is exciting, but can also be overwhelming and a bit intimidating when you think about having to do ballroom dances surrounded by effortlessly graceful Europeans. Never fear! IES Abroad has started offering dance courses for those students who want to learn the basic steps before attending a ball! The classes are well-paced, casual, and very fun. In a few sessions, we learned how to waltz, foxtrot, boogie, and more! They attempted to teach the quadrille, but, trust me, no amount of lessons can prepare you for the absolute chaos that happens on the dance floor at midnight. Even some of the Austrians seemed lost! If you can’t attend the classes or feel like your dancing skills are sub-par, don’t stress! Try at least one waltz and just have fun! You will inevitably miscount, step on someone’s toes, and run into an Austrian couple or two, but I promise it will be okay. Just keep spinning in circles and counting “1, 2, 3. 1, 2, 3” as inconspicuously as you can.
As a side note, remember that when you are at the ball, you are representing America and IES Abroad. Don’t be the obnoxious American students that can give us a bad reputation. Keep it classy and be aware of your surroundings. Do as the Austrians do and you’ll have lots of fun without running into trouble or inviting unpleasant glances from the locals who are trying to enjoy their evening, too. Also, be sure to pace yourself for a very long night because balls begin around 8 or 9 in the evening and end at 4 in the morning! Eat dinner before and pick your shoes very wisely…
I am still in awe of the magical evening I had at the ball. I had high expectations from the number of Hallmark and Disney movies I’ve seen in my lifetime and I was still blown away by the entire experience. The venue was awe-inspiring, the musicians were excellent, and the night was nearly perfect (I say “nearly” because I thought my feet were going to fall off by the end of the night. Ladies, really think about which heels you wear). I’ve seen and experienced many wonderful things this semester, but the ball was truly an unforgettable night. My childhood fantasies came to life in full-color and splendor beyond what I could have ever imagined and I have fallen even more in love with this city. This was my first ball, and it will not be my last. I will return someday to rekindle the magic, but I will always remember vividly the 17th of November 2017- the night my dreams came true.
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<p>Hey, y'all! I'm a cat-loving music education major from good ole Fort Worth, Texas. I sing Brahms and Mozart, but I listen to Taylor Swift, Hamilton, and much more! (My Spotify playlists says a lot about me!) I enjoy traveling because I get to meet new people, experience new places, and try new foods (okay- I'm mostly in it for the food). Follow along to see what kinds of adventures (and mishaps) I find myself involved in!</p>