Let’s have a ball.
Few parties are more elegant, festive and steeped more deeply in tradition than the formal balls of Vienna. While the custom of the Viennese Ball dates back more than 400 years, none of the splendor and pageantry, which includes a procession of debutantes and, of course, waltzing, has been lost over time. The dress code still calls for ladies to wear a “floor-length evening dress” and men to don “tails with medals, tuxedo or uniform.”
I was just chatting with Ambassador Alexa Wesner, the new United States Ambassador to Austria, who just attended her first Viennese Ball. She will go to four more over the next month. Believe it or not, there are more than 200 official balls in Vienna each year, most of which take place in January and February.
Grab a glass of Obstler and join us, won’t you?
Tell us about Ball Season in Vienna?
When you first arrive in Vienna, you are immediately struck by the rich cultural traditions and the Viennese Ball is chief among them. The Viennese of all ages approach Ball Season with an enthusiasm – a zeal – reminiscent of the energy from fans of the World Cup or the Super Bowl.
What was it like to attend your first Viennese Ball?
My first Ball experience was at one of the season’s most-anticipated, The Philharmoniker, which celebrates the Vienna Philharmonic. It was held in the Vienna Musikverein, a grand, beautifully-ornate hall that is considered one of the finest concert halls in the world. The event started at 10 pm and went until 5 am. It was difficult to get a spot on the dance floor before 2 am. It was so festive.
How was your first Viennese waltz?
It was wonderful but a bit head-spinning, literally, because the Viennese Waltz is twice as fast as the English Waltz and you’re spinning rapidly, constantly, counter-clockwise around the hall – and, for me, backwards.
Ambassador Wesner with her husband, Blaine, at the 2014 Vienna Philharmonic Ball
Tell us about your dress.
I wore a Carolina Herrera gown. We altered the dress from the collection. Originally, It had a red belt and we added a pocket. I accessorized it with a necklace that belonged to my maternal grandmother, who was German.
What will you remember most about the Ball?
It was magical. The tradition, the orchestra, the hall, the gowns, the white tie and tails – it was all straight from the pages of your favorite childhood fairy tale.
Why, yes, we’d love to see photos from the 2014 Philharmoniker Ball as well as Philarmoniker Balls from the past.
Danke, Madame Ambassador.
2014 Ball Photos: Terry Linke