Fairy tales do come true. Ballroom dancing in the Hofburg. Vienna, Austria
Note: To those who never knew it, Vienna is home to 300 balls a year. Getting in is not actually that difficult. All you really need to do is buy a ticket. You can find the list of balls here. What is more important is making sure you are properly attired (that’s proper ballgowns for you ladies, suit or preferably a tux for the men) and perhaps a German speaking friend who can help explain the concepts and the quadrille instructions to you. Being able to ballroom dance would make all the difference in enjoying the night, though there are several rooms all over the palace playing different music including hip hop/ R&B that you could enjoy. For the ladies, I strongly recommend bringing a pair of flats in a bag discreet enough to switch your shoes around.
Have you heard the story of The Twelve Princesses? It was one of my favorites, growing up. 12 princesses are found night after night, with their heels so worn and their bodies so tired that their father the King worried what they were up to. He invited men, princes and nobility to try and solve the mystery. In return he offers one of his daughters as a wife to the one who can solve it. A common man finds out the truth, that they drug their guards and escape in the middle of the night. Through an underground passage and crossing a lake by boat, they go to a ball, night after night after night, until their feet are sore and their soles give out.
(The Hofburg – Vienna, Austria)
Ive always had that dream, the ones many little girls have, of princesses and ball gowns, and dancing your heart away. I never thought I would be able to live it one day and it is so difficult to describe what it feels like to have your childhood dreams come true.
(Inside the main ballroom)
I entered the beautiful ballroom of the Hofburg. The Winter palace of the Habsburg empire. The grand hall of the former emperor. High painted ceilings, a live band playing in the corner. A live choir accompanying the beginning of the ball. Ladies in ball gowns, some more princessy than others. With their long white gloves holding a small bouquet of flowers. The men all around me, dressed in their finest. Tailcoats and suit jackets, and bow ties all around.
(Debutantes waiting to enter the ballroom)
(The opening dance)
A row of ladies and gentlemen walk in hand in hand. All the women in white, all the men in black. They greet each other, and dance the beautiful opening dance. When they are done, you hear a loud call! and the ball declared open. Men and women of all ages and dresses twirl around the large dance floor. A waltz or a foxtrot. You hear laughter all around as elegant people tried to sidestep others. The Austrian men standing out with their command of steps and their lead of their ladies.
My friends had recommended bringing a pair of flats, tucked away in a small purse, and true enough at midnight my high heels falls off, but I keep dancing. The ball will go on, all the way until the wee hours of morning. 5 or even 6 a.m.
(The wonderful friends I made the day before the ball)
The people here are so friendly, and open. By midnight I am left partnerless. The friend who was accompanying me earlier having left to sleep. The sign for the famous french quadrille is given. Everyone rushes out to find a partner to make a foursome. A quadrille essentially a semi-slow line dancing done with German instructions from the stage.
My friends call out loudly around the stage “we have a spare girl! we have a spare girl!” and a group nearby yells back “we have a spare guy! we have a spare guy!” and so a young man walks up to me. He is Italian, perhaps 22 or 23. He loves balls and with his friends had chosen to dance in the ball rather than going clubbing. It is more fun here he says, and I am happy to agree. He is well trained, having been forced to go to dance school from the age of 16 to 18. He explains the dance steps to me and sings along with the conductors calls for the quadrille “der herr voraus, der Herr voraus, die dame hinterdrein”
(Get ready for the delightful quadrille)
We step up and immediately start dancing when the quadrille ends and the galloping begins. He leads me all the way, my laughter ringing loud as we merge into the crowd. They play a classical waltz, and we dance. Waltz being his specialty, the one he knows the best. I am amazed as this young good looking man leads me strongly through the halls, managing his way around the crowds, never missing a beat. He sings to the the beat as well, and as he twirls me, and twirls me and twirls me, the paintings up above seem to smile and there I was in the most magical moment of my life. Thinking to myself, this is what fairy tales are made of… in awe of a time we thought we had lost but lives on in Vienna.
(Twirling with friends. I would never imagine having been given the chance to live this dream)