There are three things you need to know about dancing; lifting another human being above your head is never as easy as it looks, everyone thinks they’ve got moves and if you’re not going to dance at least once in Vienna you might as well stay home.
Image © Regenbogenball
Vienna’s the city where even horses dance – which looks strangely wonderful even though you know it shouldn’t. It’s the birthplace of Johann Strauss, there are gown and slipper specialists (yes, we thought that was just a fairy tale thing too) and every year the city holds 450 astonishingly glittery and glamorous formal balls. Now you know why the Viennese invented Fiaker, a double shot of espresso with a tot of rum and a tall cap of whipped cream that would get anyone dancing.
Arrive in style © tore_urnes
This year’s hot favourite to start the Ball Season is 2013’s Regenbogenball at the Parkhotel Schönbrun on February 2nd. Regenbogenball is the city’s 16th Rainbow Ball and the standard by which all others are measured. This is one of the few times in life you can wear confectionery or get out the tux, sweep about with a silly smile on your face, marvel at the chandelier, openly use the word ‘ravishing’ and do it all without a single, tiny hint of irony – and for a good cause.
Image © Regenbogenball
Part of the proceeds from every Regenbogenball ticket goes to HOSI Wien which supports initiatives and events all over Vienna, from Peerconnection to the city’s fabulous and justifiably famous annual Rainbow Parade at the end of May.
Rainbow Parade © thinkoutsideyourbox_net
But, as any Cinderella worth her slippers will tell you, getting a ticket is just the start.
Yes, Regenbogenball is a bit different from your average formal ball; Lucy McEvil is hosting and there’s cabaret, comedy and music from Murielle Stadelman, Andy Bell, Conchita Wurst and many more. But it’s still a ball, so there are certain formalities you’ll want to observe or at least bluff your way through. Happily we’ve done a bit of digging and come up with a few sneaky hints that might help.
Image © Regenbogenball
Let’s start with the all-important waltz.
Anywhere else you could get away with a bit of shuffling, but this is Vienna, so you have to at least learn the basics. And without access to a kindly Austrian aunt, you might want to think about a quick class at one of Vienna’s dancing schools. The Dance School of Elmayer is one of the city’s finest and holds regular waltz classes as well as classes in ball etiquette and formal manners. You’ll find Elmayer in the Pallavicini Palace next to the Spanish Riding School. So once you’ve mastered some waltz moves you can always pop in for a bit of equine inspiration courtesy of the magnificent Lipizzaner Horses (think of it like Extreme Dressage).
Elmayer Dance Academy © Paul Hardy Carter
Then you need to start worrying about what to wear. Fortunately the gracious Regenbogenball organisers haven’t restricted their savoir faire to the entertainment so you’ll be pleased to know the dress code isn’t strictly meringue or monkey.
That said it seems a shame to visit Vienna and not take at least a brief stroll down the gloriously extravagant Mariahilferstrasse, the city’s most famous shopping street. There are no shortage of beautiful gowns, beads and other ball essentials to tempt you here but you might want to bear in mind that, as well as being the ‘Number 1. City in the World for Quality of Life’, Vienna is also one of the most expensive. Window shopping’s free though and the Mariahilferstrasse leads you to the 7th District and the home of Vienna’s up and coming new designers. This is definitely the place to look for something that fits the Regenbogenball dress code proviso, ‘Whatever you like as long as it’s got style’.
Shoe shopping in Vienna © cooling // Living Vienna
Shopping and eating are activities of the affluent and there are plenty of well-heeled citizens in Vienna, so when in … etc. This is the city that gave the world Sachertorte. And the Sacherhotel is still one of the finest places to try a slice of what has to be the ultimate chocolate cake. We already name checked the sinfully good Fiaker coffee (if you take yours without rum ask for an Einspäner) but did we mention how well it went with Apfelstrudel or Dobostorte or Gugelhupf? We could go on and on but it’s probably enough to say it’s all deliciously sweet, slightly decadent and very Vienna. Plus the cafés themselves are everywhere and almost as delightful as the delicacies they serve.
Apfelstrudel © laubner
So now you’re tutored, dressed and fuelled with sugar you’re as ready as you’ll ever be to respond to the cry of ‘Alles Walzer’, the traditional clarion call that launches Regenbogenball and the start of what could turn out to be one of the most memorable nights of your life.
Alles Waltzer! © Regenbogenball
Don’t forget – however footsore and waltzed out you are – on the way home from the ball you’ve got to stop for a bowl of late night goulash or pick up a Viennese hot dog at a traditional Wurstelstand.
Traditional Wurstelstand © longhighway
And if you’ve got any energy left at all the next day you might want to skate through City Hall Park, exchange a kiss in front of Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’ in the Upper Belvedere Palace, get dressed up (again) and explore some of Vienna’s achingly on-trend Burlesque Clubs or you could just sit about drinking Fiaker and eating torte in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. There are definitely worse ways to spend some time.
Upper Belvedere Palace © Ashitakka