History of the ball

Ball (from French bal, Italian ballo, German Ball – to dance) is a gathering of a large society of people of both sexes for dancing. Balls differ from ordinary dances or discos with increased celebration, stricter etiquette and a classic set of dances that follow a predetermined order.

The beginning of the balls comes from the holidays at the French and Burgundian courts. The first ball, about which there is information in history, was given in 1385 in Amiens, on the occasion of the marriage of Charles VI with Isabella of Bavaria. But it is doubtful whether the princes themselves and the invited higher nobility took part in the dances.

In the XV and XVI centuries. large dance entertainments at the courts and noble castles took place very rarely and only under Maria de’ Medici, who first brought masquerades to France, and even more so under the gallant King Henry IV, balls became widespread.

The true form of balls has been preserved since the time of Louis XIV, when they were instilled in all German residences. Since then, balls have been an essential part of most court celebrations. For balls, a certain ceremonial developed little by little, first in France, which, despite its shyness, was accepted everywhere with minor changes, and only in the 19th century was it somewhat simplified.

From 1715, balls began to be held in the building of the opera house (Bal de l’Opèra) in Paris, and at the same time, middle-class people were given the opportunity, for a certain fee, to participate in these entertainments, dedicated exclusively to dancing. Since then, balls have become a social entertainment for all classes. As in all matters of luxury and fashion, Paris set the tone in the setting of balls and the choice of ball gowns.

Pre-Petrov Russia did not know points. Their beginning belongs to the assemblies established by Peter I at that time. Petrovsky balls always opened with a polka, followed by a minuet and other fashionable dances at the time. During Anna Ivanovna’s time, the balls were in great progress. Empress Catherine II’s favorite saying was: “A people who sing and dance do not think evil”, and therefore she especially encouraged balls with dances, which achieved significant development under her. Catherine’s balls were distinguished by special brilliance and magnificence, as testified even by people who saw the splendor of Versailles. Since then, balls have entered life as a regular entertainment.

However, Vienna is considered to be the real ballroom capital of Europe. The development of Austrian ballroom art was laid during the Biedermeier period (this style was particularly popular among the prosperous German and Austrian bourgeoisie in the period from 1815 to 1848). After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, which marked the beginning of the post-Napoleonic era, the burgeoning bourgeoisie turned European aristocratic holidays into a cult. “Congress dances” became synonymous with lavish celebrations and glittering balls. And although the public was not yet fully prepared for such events, music and dance nevertheless provided good entertainment for people who craved social entertainment during the long period of transition from monarchy to democracy.

If previously balls were given mainly at the Austrian Imperial Court, from 1815 to 1848 (until the revolution) they were held for a wider audience in small halls and public institutions. In 1862, the Vienna City Theater received special permission from Emperor Franz Joseph I to hold its own ball for the first time. And when, 7 years later, the Imperial Opera House moved into this space, Franz Joseph forbade holding public dance evenings, because now this building acquired the new status of the Imperial Opera House. Finally, in 1877, the emperor gave his consent to hold an “evening” in the opera house, but dancing was not officially allowed then.

After the fall of the Habsburg Empire in 1918, the young republic surprisingly quickly adopted the imperial custom of holding lavish celebrations in the opera house. And in 1935, the first Vienna Opera Ball took place. Since that time, balls at the Vienna State Opera began to be given annually on the last Thursday before Lent. The Second World War was an exception. Then the balls were interrupted until 1956, when the ball returned to the walls of the Vienna State Opera. Since then, the tradition of holding the annual Vienna Opera Ball has been broken only once. In 1991, the Vienna Opera Ball was canceled due to the Persian Gulf War.

Today, the Vienna Opera Ball is one of the main annual social events in Europe and each time gathers more than 5,000 guests who dance the night away in the state opera.