You Only Ball Once

Aleida Fernandez

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It’s ball season in Vienna. During January and February many Viennese – and tourists – don their best evening attire and dance the night away at a beautiful location until the wee hours of the morning. If it sounds like a Disney movie, it’s because it basically is. This last week I had the opportunity of trying my hand at becoming a Disney princess at the Technical University student ball.

The Hofburg Palace where the ball took place.

The Hofburg Palace where the ball took place.

There were only two things standing in my way from having the perfect night. The first was that I have no idea how to ballroom dance. Sure, I learned the salsa when I was fifteen, but the one-two-three step of the waltz really throws me. My main experience with dancing the awkward jump-in-the-air-like-you-just-don’t-care moves from our frat basements. Don’t believe me? Check out this video (3:34 is where it gets really pathetic). The second was that I didn’t have an evening gown or any idea of where to find one and virtually no money to spend on one. Those were two very big obstacles standing in my way of having the perfect night.

I felt like I should give up on trying a dancing queen, and decided to focus my energies on finding a gown for the night. Vienna is the cultural, social, and fashion hub of Austria, so how hard could it be? Well, as it turns out, very hard. I searched for three days, took multiple trips on the subway and tried on multiple

Austrians dancing in the waltzing room.

Austrians dancing in the waltzing room.

dresses all around Vienna. Every dress I tried on either was not my style (apparently the skintight satin bling look is really in this season), way too expensive or a combination of both. (On a positive note, I got really good at taking the subway and saw multiple districts of Vienna.) At this point, I was really missing my vintage stores in Portland and about ready to give up. But I decided to give it one more try.

My friend and I in the Jazz Room.

My friend and I in the Jazz Room.

I dragged myself to a second-hand store in the fourth district which I knew had a collection of evening gowns. When I realized I had found THE ONE, I think I finally understood why all those women cry on TLC’s Say Yes To The Dress when they find their wedding gown – or maybe I was just relieved I wasn’t going to have to wear satin. With two weeks of German under my belt, I tried to explain to the clerk how excited I was to finally have a dress. I think he took pity on me and gave me a discount.

At the night of the ball, I put on my discount gown and went over to the Hofburg Palace to find my Disney moment. To say that the palace was beautiful would be an understatement. Inside there were four rooms of dancing: the waltzing room,the traditional Austrian folk dance room, the Latin Disco room and the Jazz Room. I felt like a million bucks and danced the night away. Oh, I even waltzed – with an Austrian! – and he said I was a good dancer. I’m going to assume he wasn’t just being polite.