The Viennese Ball is the last vestige of Stanford’s bygone BOSP in Austria. Students in Vienna (ok, not Salzburg) apparently created the ball after they returned home. I imagine the class of ’78 students going to an on-campus party their first weekend back and feeling nostalgic for the classiness they left across the pond. Their dreams of class and capering were limited only by the fact that the first Viennese Ball was held in Toyon, and lacked the glamour of a capacious off-campus location. Now it is held in the swanky Hyatt Regency in Burlingame near the San Francisco airport. It’s a pretty place–the kind of hotel where all the guest rooms have iHomes. The hotel features, among other things, a 24-hour fitness center, a sunday champagne brunch, and a “historical sports bar” called Knuckles. There are separate rooms for waltz and swing, performances by a host of really talented Stanford dance groups, competitions for brave waltzers and swingers, and food in the lobby.
Besides the splendor of the location and the undeniable coolness of getting off campus on a Friday, you get to watch people who really, really know how to dance (the Opening Committee) just before you step out and try your feet at the waltz. If you don’t know how to waltz, you have several options.
1. Learn to waltz before the ball.
If you’re taking Social Dance 1, the illustrious Richard Powers has probably been teaching you the waltz for a few weeks, but for others the Viennese Ball holds Austria Fortnight, a series of dance events for two weeks designed to teach beginners how to do the kinds of dances that will likely be featured at the Ball, as well as give more experienced dancers a chance to practice and get really excited about February 10.
2. Fake it.
Pretending that you know how to dance is a time-honored tradition itself. This approach works much better when your dance partner is aware of your deception. This also tends to work better with swing than waltz, because the nature of the waltz requires you to pretend you know what you’re doing in the same direction that everyone else is actually doing it. However, swing is fairly easy to improvise, and it’s possible to look snazzy and not have a clue what you’re doing as long as it goes with the beat and style of the song that’s playing.
3. Watch the performances.
If you really don’t want to dance after trying and failing to synchronize yourself, you can hop from room to room and watch the performances and competitions. You don’t come to a ball to stand around, but there are far more irksome ways to pass an evening than by standing around in formal clothes watching incredible dancing.
So for those who enjoy their pomp with a dash of circumstance, or anyone who loves to dance, get tickets! It’s happening on February 10.