The Ball

History of the Vienna Opera Ball

Balls for the people of Austria arose in the 18th Century, when Emperor Joseph II decreed that the ballrooms in the palace and the new opera house should not only be reserved for nobility. Joseph opened ballrooms to the wider community and, thus, started the tradition of public balls in Vienna, which last until the present day. Traditional 18th Century balls comprised mainly minuets and other dances that involved very little body contact. It was only after the waltz was introduced that partners could hold each other and dance close together, as we now enjoy.

Held since 1936, the Vienna Opera Ball is attended by royalty, dignitaries, socialites, celebrities, and is the highlight of the ball season in Vienna. One of the main events of the ball is the debutante’s dance, where young ladies and gentlemen perform the opening dance of the night. The Vienna Opera Ball epitomises the luxury, elegance and the distinguished culture of Vienna.

The annual Ball is held at the venerable Vienna State Opera, one of the most famous opera houses in the world. Starting in 1956, one day each year the State Opera is transformed into a splendid ballroom for the Vienna Opera Ball. The stage, orchestra stalls and seats are replaced by thousands of flowers, exquisite draperies, and filled with eager guests and dignitaries. The Opera boxes are set aside for heads of state, politicians, and other guests of honour, and the ball opens with the Austrian Federal President.

The Vienna Opera Ball, being the classic and most prominent ball, now also takes place in 56 cities outside of Vienna, such as New York, Moscow, Washington, Dubai, and Hong Kong. Being an opportunity for dreams and fairytales to come true for many, the months leading up to the ball consist of many whispers of who’s wearing what clothes and jewels. The debutantes generally dress all in white and their escorts in black tails. Gentlemen guests may even dress in white tie and decorations. In Hong Kong, the dress code for past years and the upcoming ball will be black tie for gentlemen and formal floor length eveningwear for ladies.

A quadrille, a highly sociable dance from the 18th and 19th Century, is most commonly danced at the Opera Ball. A quadrille or "Quadrille de Contre Danse" was originally a card game played by four people, but by the 19th Century the name was more commonly associated with this lively dance that uses the elements of waltz. The evening’s music will be provided by the Academy Orchestra from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

Debutantes, from the French word ‘débutante’, or ‘female beginner’, comprise young ladies who have reached the age of maturity and is formally presented to society as an adult. In Austria, many debutantes audition months before the Opera Ball for the honour of participating in the opening ceremony, which usually begins with a polonaise, followed by a polka and a waltz. Debutantes are required to wear floor length white ball gowns, and their male escorts wear black tails. Past Hong Kong Vienna’s Opera Balls have welcomed young ladies and gentlemen from the German Swiss and French international schools. Selected debutantes and their escorts will be specially trained and choreographed by Mr Heinz Heidenreich, former principle dancer of the Vienna State Opera Ballet, who will fly in from Austria especially for the occasion.

Today the waltz and the ball culture in Vienna are closely associated with glamour, romance, and elegance. Vienna continues to be the only place in the world where prevailing culture and contemporary presence remain distinctive and impressive; a modern fairytale brought to life.

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