Introducing guestblogger Valentin Seidler
This time I start with an introduction. I am very pleased that one of my favorite Instagrammers took my invitation and has written a blogpost about the famous Ball-season in Vienna. Valentin Seidler studies and lives in Vienna and is a proud citizen of this world known romantic hotspot. His Instagram gallery shows his true passion for the city.
Below Valentin gives us all the insights about the various Balls in Vienna. The traditions, where to go, what to wear, how to behave etc. And because he is a dancer himself, he really knows his way around. A whole new world opened up to me reading the post. Makes me want to dance through Vienna too. Have fun reading his blog, maybe we will meet at one of the Balls next year!
Valentin (second to the right) together with his dance partners
Vienna. City with the best life quality in the world
Vienna was named the city with the best life quality in the world by the global consulting firm Mercer – four times in a row. But why is Vienna so high ranked? Personally I think the slow and very traditional lifestyle makes a huge difference to other metropoles in the world. And the Viennese Ball-season is a big part of this old fashioned life-style of Viennese citizens.
This Ball-Tradition was born before the 18th century. Not only in Austria, but also in the German-speaking territories and in France. In the beginning the dance-events were especially for upper class young people, who needed to be introduced to society. To find a partner for marriage was also a main reason to participate at a Ball. To learn all these young people how to dance, Vienna has many, many dancing schools.
Elmayer. The most famous dance school
Also today young people go to dance school. Most of them start in the age of 15 or 16 and stay there for two years or longer. The most famous dance-instructor-facility is dance school “Elmayer”.
On the one hand you learn the basic-steps of nine dances (Viennese waltz, Slow waltz, Quickstep/Foxtrot, Tango; Cha-Cha-Cha, Rumba, Samba, Paso doble, Jive/Boogie – these nine are the international standard). On the other hand you also learn good manners in your first year. And you have the possibility to join an etiquette-dinner, where you learn for example how to use silverware in a right way and how to treat your accompaniment. At Elmayer you have to be suitably dressed. Boys in a dark suit combined with a tie and white gloves; girls should wear a dress or a skirt and blouse.
The dresscode is also very important at the Balls. Men: only tuxedo or tailcoat. Women: long dinner dress. But it’s not that easy. You can still make a lot of mistakes: Men should always wear black and shiny patent-leather shoes with black socks. If you wear a tailcoat with black bow tie you look like a waiter instead of a gentleman. Wear a white one! Never combine a tailsuit with a watch – take a pocket-watch. And women’s dresses shouldn’t be too short.
Famous shops to buy your Ball-outfit
The most famous shops to buy a Ball-outfit are Frack & Co. for men. And for women: Steinecker. During the Ball-season (11th of November – ‘shrove tuesday’ (Faschingsdienstag) you’ll also find Ball-clothing at the big shopping-boulevards. For mainstream clothes go to the Mariahilferstraße. For more upper class style visit the Kärntnerstraße.
The most famous Balls
This is the biggest Ball of all and also the official ball of Austria with over 5.000 guests. For just one evening the entire State Opera House is rebuilt. All chairs have to be removed, a new floor has to be built, so that there is a big dance floor from the stage to the auditorium. 140 young dance-couples are participating at the Opening Ceremony. The girls in their white dresses (the white color represents innocence and virginity) and all men have to wear a tailcoat – tuxedos are not allowed.
The “Wiener Staatsballett” and some famous Opera singers perform just before the debutantes have their big moment with the opening-dance. This year couples from Russia, France, Italy and Japan were part of the debutantes-crew. This ball is very international. A lot of young people from all over the world want to participate. It is only allowed to participate once in your life.
This year Naomi Campbell and Elisabetta Canalis were the international guests. It’s the only ball that is broadcasted live on television. Not only in Austria, but also in Switzerland and Germany.
Favorite Ball. It takes place in the unique Golden Hall of Musikverein, where also the famous New Years concert of the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra is held, which is broadcasted in more than 60 countries. It’s the Ball for all people who are involved in the cultural and art activities in Austria. For example opera-singers, actors or musicians. This location also has to be rebuilt for this occasion. But it’s a lot easier, only the chairs have to be removed. Millions of flowers are used to decorate the entire building.
This Ball is held in Hofburg Palace – the former winter residence of the Emperor (summer residence was Schloss Schönbrunn, Schönbrunn Palace). Most of the Viennese Balls take place here, because it offers several halls for dancing.
This Ball is very special. Everyone has to come in “Tracht” (traditional clothing of Austria). It offers a very special opportunity – only twice a year! Dance in the Spanish Riding School. Normally only the famous white Lipizzaner get to perform here.
One of most beautiful Balls in Vienna. The tradition of drinking coffee was brought by the Turks during the both sieges (1529 & 1683) and is still a central part of Viennese culture. The most famous coffee-houses are: Café Central, Café Demel, Café Griensteidl, Café Landtmann, and off course Café Sacher with its famous cake. Funfact: Demel and Sacher were fighting a long time, because both thought they have the original Sacher-Cake. Nowadays Demel has apricot jam directly under the chocolate-layer, Sacher-Cafe in the middle of the cake: Crazy Austrians.
It is the offical Ball of Dance school Elmayer and the offfical end of the Ball-season. At midnight on Shrove Tuesday is the end of the carnival. Therefore, the ball will start at 6 p.m. and ends at 00:00. For most young people, it’s the first Ball-Night in their life. All financial gains of this Ball will be donated to a charitable organization. Also other dance-schools have their Ball-Night; but not as huge and not at Hofburg-Palace.
‘Rent’ a dance partner
Don’t worry if you haven’t found your dance partner yet. Some Balls include so called ‘Taxi-dancers‘ within the ticket. Some young boys stand at the entrances of the main halls, waiting for women who don’t have a dance partner. You can ‘rent’ them for free for some dances. If you need a dance-accompaniment for an entire ball-night, ask at Tanzschule Elmayer. They’ll find a good dancer for you.
Where to stay and rest your dancing feet
If you like the typical Austrian-imperial style there are some real classy places to stay. All of these hotels are very exclusive and fit perfectly into the fairytale setting of the Balls. They are all located next to the main Ball venues.
All in all Vienna hosts over 400 balls during the year. Also Viennese firefighters, caretakers, senior citizens and nurses organize Balls. Nearly every high-school organises a Ball, especially for graduation year. It’s a very important part of life in Vienna. If you love ballroom dancing, you should definitely visit Vienna during Ball season.
Sources & Photo credits
Mercer, Elmayer, Frack&Co., Steinecker, Opera-Ball, Ball der Wiener Philharmoniker, Jägerball, Hofburg Palace, Spanisch Riding School, Kaffeesiederball, Café Central, Café Demel, Café Griensteidl, Café Landtmann, Café Sacher, Elmayer-Kränzchen.
Hotels: Imperial, Bristol, Sacher, Palais Coburg, Grand Hotel Wien