The trip and dance week were absolutely fabulous! I was so happy the entire week, I don't think I
stopped smiling all week. I loved the classes and I quickly decided to attend all of the classes
rather than skip some to do sightseeing when I realized I would never see so many good dancers in
one room for quite some time.
Vienna is such a lovely city, I felt right at home there; So much history at every turn. Our
Pension was close to the Subway line, and what a nice subway system. It was fun being able to walk
to the final ball too, young people on the street ignored us in our funny clothes but older people
and Asian tourists smiled at us.
Mid week we went to the theater. The first was Countess Maritza at the Folks Opera, very bizarre
show, great music, some weak singing, but they set it in the 1950's, and made the last act into a TV
game show complete with giant blocks of cheese and Mozart Kugel candies walking around. We thought
it was hilarious and strange but all around us people were walking out during the last act. The
director and designer should have their artistic licenses revoked!
The next night we saw The Magic Flute at the State Opera. What a fabulous show. The music
and singing were amazing. The staging, sets and costumes were modernized, but in contrast to
Countess Maritza, it was gorgeous. The Queen of the Night came out in a huge crinoline dress,
in midnight blue (much like the dress I was going to wear to the ball the next night!), with golden
luminescent stars strewn across the skirt. Everything on her was midnight blue, including her face
and arms. The 3 other ladies had amazing bustle modernized dresses in deep jewel tones. The
daughter had a very simple Regency type pale dress. The three boys started out in normal kids
clothing, T-shirt, shorts and kiddie hats, but by the end they had the cutest 18th century shoes and
jackets work over their T-shirts. The chorus characters were in white baggy jump suits with black
lines which sort of blended with the backdrop, and they all had bar codes. It was good creative use
of non-traditional costuming.
The Biedermeier Thé Dansant was a lot of fun, it was held in the Straußelsälen, the
last remaining dance hall in Vienna. There were several ladies in Regency dress from England and
the continent, several of us Americans were wearing 1830's dresses. Many of the men were in early
19th Century formalwear. There was even one Hungarian Hussar uniform. We did a really cute figured
dance with each person holding an arched bower, the man's were plain white and the ladies' arches
were wrapped with ivy vines. The Europeans seem to do more set dances at their balls, and learn
more choreographed dances than we do, we didn't learn very many waltz or polka steps, but maybe
that's just an effect of the earlier time period. I now love the 1830's, it is so cute, feminine
and puffy, and much quicker to get into than 1860's. I want to remake my dress in a more flattering
color scheme, and make down filled sleeve puffs. Now if only I had a place to wear it again...Maybe
a bonnet and pelerine so I can wear it to tea at Newport.
My best friend and I finally had time to shop and sightsee on the last day, doing it all in one day.
We went to Tostmann to dirndl shop, I bought a very expensive dirndl, deep red bodice, wool blend
with a woven jacquard paisleyish pattern, with all of the shaping seams outlined with 1/4" black
velvet ribbon. The front closure consists of curly gold metal loops on either side which lace with
a gold cord. The skirt is black with small white polka dots and a band of rust colored cloth at the
hem. It has a very Renaissance feel to it, and was the only one like it in the place and it was
exactly my size! It was fate, even if it did cost about as much as a plane ticket (youch!) I hope
to make a black/red shot silk taffeta apron to wear with it.
After that we went to 2 sewing stores, one was a really small shop, run by a very nice gentleman and
had really lovely trims and the other had a wide array of fabric, I wish I had more money to spend
and a bigger suitcase. Unfortunately the really good lace shop had closed about 3 weeks earlier.
We didn't have time to get to the nice hat shops.
Later that same day we made it to both Schönbrunn and the Hofburg. We had not planned to see the
Hofburg but the portrait of Sisi (Empress Elisabeth) we had most wanted to see was not at
Schonbrunn, though they did have a black shoulder cape said to have belonged to the Empress. My
friend and I did waltz a bit to imaginary music in the Grand Hall (which was modeled on the hall of
mirrors at Versailles); after the tour we were informed that our favorite portrait was at the
Hofburg so we rushed to the u-bahn and made it to the Hofburg in time to tour there as well (we had
no idea it was so close to our pension!)
At the Hofburg they had some costume items belonging to the Empress, a black lace shawl, white mid
Century dressing gown, with nice white work embroidery, and some small accessories, and tons of
photographs and portraits, my especial favorites being the ones with her hair down and the portrait
in the white 1864 gown with the golden sprigs and the stars in her hair, all by Winterhalter. There
was also a small exhibit of regional dress.
I even got to visit the street where my mother lived during the 1930's and 40's, she loved the
The Grand Strauss Ball on the final evening was amazing! The hall was so beautiful. Waltzing to
Strauss in a palace in Vienna, wearing a ball gown in the arms of my husband was a dream come true.
I have wanted to do that ever since I started dancing 12 years ago! It was also one of the first
Balls in over two years where I was able to dance with him and not worry about his foot. That made
it even more special. And the food was fabulous, an amazing buffet of local delicacies. The ball
was held in the Palais Pallavicini, across the street from the Hofburg where state receptions are
still held. I and most of the US ladies wore 1860's and 1890's ball gowns, there was a mix of eras,
some English and European ladies wore Regency, hoopskirt and 1830's styles. There were also many
For a week after returning home (and even now) I was listening to Strauss as much as possible. At
the 1890's ball in Newport on February 22 the band played a Strauss waltz, and it was a touch of
Vienna all over again.