Ballroom Glitz

Glittering chandeliers, lavish parties: While some may consider the Vienna ball tradition antiquated, it still is an integral part of the city’s social life.

After two years of pandemic slumber, hopes are high for this year’s winter. But a great night starts months in advance. And you can find all that you need for it in Josefstadt. The most famous ball of all is, of course, the Vienna Opera Ball. But the State Opera and Hofburg Palace are not the only spectacular venues where you can take to the dancefloor the Viennese way.

Palais Auersperg in Josefstadt is a perfect alternative. During the Congress of Vienna, nobility and high society would come together here for evening entertainment – unaware that they were being watched by spies of Prince Metternich, hidden in a fake fireplace. The next room is testament to a different kind of secrecy: The legendary affair between Austria’s Archduchess Sophie and the Swedish Prince of Vasa would not have been possible without the hidden door in the boudoir.

But back to the present: The ball season at the palace starts with a gala on New Year’s Eve where guests can finally waltz into the new year again. A ticket alone won’t do the trick, however. If you want to fully embrace the experience you should also know some basic steps. A short walk from Palais Auersperg takes us to Rueff dancing school on Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 4. Located in the former picture gallery of Count Czernin, it is another reminder of how closely the past and the present are often linked in Vienna.

collage: zwei herren und zwei damen die sich gegenüberstehen, rechts tanzendes paar in schöner ballgardarobe

From young debutants to adventurous tourists, the school has a course for everyone. The ‘Hop On Waltz!’ lesson is perfect if you just want to drop by and get a first taste of the real thing. Once you feel confident on the dancefloor, only one question remains: What am I going to wear? The search for the right dress turned out to be more difficult than expected. Two years of ups and downs and four lockdowns have forced several shops for evening wear in Josefstadt out of business.

One of those who have managed to hold on is Maurizio Giambra. In 2013, the Italian-born costume-designer fulfilled his dream and opened a boutique on Lange Gasse 38 where he could finally realize his own vision of elegance and fashion rather than selling someone else’s. His special focus is on wedding gowns and ball gowns. All of his creations are designed by him and handmade. Only a thin curtain separates his studio from the showroom. Design, production and sales: all ‘made in Josefstadt’. And Maurizio Giambra also has a wonderful explanation why balls have retained their magic and the Viennese continue to cherish a seemingly outdated tradition. In the dull and grey of winter, he says, the ball season brightens up our lives. The glittering rooms, the sparkling champagne, the beautiful dresses – could there be a better reason to venture out into the icy cold?

collage: weiße handschuhe halten einen kleinen strauß rote roßen