Sunday, January 28, 2007

Ball Season

So Ball season has kicked off here in Vienna and at a rapid pace. With several balls going on each week this is serious business (both in the sense that the Austrians take their balls very seriously and that tux rentals are ridiculously expensive [italics indicate bitterness]). Now, I would never claim to be an expert on balls, but it seems to me like nowhere else take their ball quite as seriously as the Austrians. In the U.S. I certainly have heard the names of a lot of balls (Officers' Ball, Governor's Ball, Policemen's Ball), but I am not sure how ball like they actually are (in terms of mass-waltzing, required ball gowns, and opening processions). I tend to think they aren't quite the same. But even the non-Austrians European here at the academy have been surprised by the grandeur of the Viennese balls. Communism seems to have wiped out the tradition in the other pieces of Austria-Hungary and it just doesn't seem to be taken to the same extreme in say France or Germany.

So enough of my ball psychobabble and on to a quick run down of the ball I went to last week (yes I know it was ages ago, yes I know the pictures have been up on facebook for ages, but better late than never).

So anywho, the ball was the Officers' Ball in the Hofburg Palace. When we got there it looked like this:

i.e. pretty much empty, but pretty. The girls in the white are the debutantes . I have to admit I was a big fan of the huge Austrian flag in the center of the room . It was pretty impressive even if it did make me think of the scene in the Sound of Music where Germans replaced the Austrian flag in the van Trapps' home with that of Nazi Germany. The whole time I felt like to should be keeping on eye open for naughty Nazis trying to take down the Austrian flag so I could yell "No! Bad Nazis. Leave Austria alone." Because that would have worked.

So after that things kicked off at around 9:30 and by kicked off I mean the hour long opening started. So first the cadets and debutantes entered, and then various military dignitaries, foreign dignitaries, an then with the Austrian ministers bringing up the rear. They had sashes, I was jealous.

Next came the marching band:

I can't really say what they played when the entered but it was definitely something along more traditional lines. They played a number of different pieces, but the best was when they played the theme to Lord of the Rings! They played it brilliantly, but what was really great was just seeing as different people in the ball room suddenly realized what was being played. Sort of along the lines of "Is that? Could it be? I think it is. Awesome!" So the marching band was very cool even if the tradition of playing musical pieces while moving in various sluggish box like formation still escapes me.

So after that there were some girls in blue dresses doing some very sprightly dancing and the cadets and debutantes danced some more before the ball was opened. Ah waltzing. It certainly can look elegant, but at least at a crouded ball (as they all hear) there is the added excitement of trying not to spin into another couple and conversely to avoid being waltz-rammed by couples spinning out of control.

But what is also pretty neat is that there are multiple dance floors at the balls here. There is a live band playing more traditional music, a jazz band, and then even a disco area. Then after midnight there is something that amounts a dance version of Simon says, where everyone get into two lines and somewhat complicated dance instructions are given to the two line about how they are supposed to dance together, and then they run the whole things is run really fast, which is usually pretty amusing.

So all and all I have to say I am a fan of the ball tradition here. I have a few more lined up, which is good since I have a purchased tuxedo I need to get the most out of. And now, as requested a picture of me in a tux with some friends from the academy:

No comments: