This upcoming Saturday is the Viennese Ball, a night of glitz and glamour and an opportunity for students and community members to get dressed up in their finest and spend the evening waltzing, dancing, enjoying light refreshments and just having fun.
This will be the 22nd ball that UR has hosted. Since its conception, the night really has become a staple event of the University. Having never attended this event previously, I naturally wanted to learn more about it.
“Viennese balls take place all over the country – there’s a Web site, vienneseball.org – which includes the history of how they began,” Music Department Concert Manager Joe Hanson said. After browsing the Web site for a few minutes, I discovered in greater detail that this tradition of ours here at the University is a tradition shared by people all over the country and the world, which is really impressive. But of course, each ball is unique, and ours is no exception.
With an expected attendance of around 500 people, Wilson Commons is going to be filled with party-goers ready to get out there and show off their moves. But this is not the Wilson Commons that students are used to, inundated with smells of food from the Pit. For the event, Wilson Commons is essentially turned upside down – the lights are turned low, the tables and chairs pushed aside, and banners and other decorations are hung up throughout the building to create a special and elegant atmosphere.
“It’s the only time when Wilson Commons is shut down and transformed,” Hanson noted. “They [the University and Wilson Commons staff] don’t have to let us do that but they do, and it makes the event even more magical.”
Naturally, there’s a lot more to the Viennese Ball than just some fancy decorations. The two musical groups that will be performing are the UR Chamber Orchestra and the UR Chamber Singers, and both ensembles will entertain over the course of the evening.
The Chamber Orchestra will play waltzes from the 18th century, including the very popular “Blue Danube,” composed by Johann Strauss Jr., along with others, while the Chamber Singers will sing a piece by Brahms.
“This is the most high profile event of the music department,” Hanson said. And while the night is first and foremost an event of fun and entertainment for all who attend, he explained, “It’s [also] a fundraiser for the two ensembles and helps them when they look to record or go on tour.” So by attending and supporting the ensembles at the ball itself, you are also giving them the opportunity to perform and record outside of the University, which is an exciting prospect.
It takes months of preparation to put everything together for this event, and a number of groups help make the night a success. UR Ballroom, our very own Students’ Association-funded ballroom dancing group, held two evenings of “Waltz Crash Courses” this week in the May Room to get people psyched for the big night.
The ball itself will also feature the Botsford Ballroom Dance Team, which has attended in years past, and they will certainly show everyone what waltzing is all about.
The truth is that the evening is huge because “It’s the only campus formal event of the year – we’ve invited students from
all of UR’s graduate schools, as well as the Eastman School of Music and community members,” according to Hanson. Approximately “80 percent are of the campus community and 20 percent are ball dance lovers from the off-campus community.”
One of the key ways that the Viennese Ball keeps people coming back each year lies in its tradition, but innovation also helps bring new attendees. This year’s ball is the first that will include swing dancing, which is really exciting.
“We’re always trying to add something new to make the ball appealing for people to return year after year. During the evening, while waltzing is happening throughout Wilson Commons, the May Room will play swing recordings to mix it up,” Hanson said.
This will add to the evening’s entertainment and allow party-goers to try something new. Also new for this year, people can purchase tickets online at www.choiceticketing.com/rochester instead of getting them at the Common Market or at the door, which is convenient for students and will also reach out to more people in the community, allowing them to have another way of buying tickets.
The finale of the ball is the balloon drop, a yearly tradition that is a well-known end to the evening.
“At the stroke of midnight, balloons come cascading down from the top of Wilson Commons, sometimes making their way all the way down to the Pit, as chimes ring throughout the building – it’s a spectacle,” Hanson said.
While that might sound like some romantic moment that only couples could enjoy, don’t be fooled. Hanson also stressed that “It’s not a necessity to come as a couple; there’s still lots of stuff to see and do. There are door prizes from different cultural organizations, and Starbucks will be open all night, along with our refreshments.”
So, guys, brush off those tuxedos, girls pull out those fancy dresses, and come out to have a good time. Solo or not, the night will certainly not be one to miss.
Siegel is a member of the class of 2010.