Students in elegant gowns and suits twirled across the floor as the orchestra took up the starting notes of the first waltz — the 45th Stanford Viennese Ball had begun. A long-standing and beloved Stanford tradition, the event invites anyone to participate in a number of social dances.
Open to Stanford affiliates and the public alike, the Ball had four different rooms dedicated to different types of music — swing, Latin, contemporary and waltz — providing guests plenty of opportunities to try out different styles of dance movement. Water stations were conveniently located outside of each room to give thirsty dancers a chance to hydrate.
Excitingly, both the waltz and swing rooms featured live music by the Saratoga Symphony and Silver Bell Jazz band, respectively. The performances added an air of grandeur to the night and provided great entertainment, both for active dancers and for those who wanted to sit and rest their feet.
As someone with almost no social dance experience, I had been worried about how much dancing I would actually get to do. However, I had no need to worry — both friends and strangers were happy to explain the basic steps to different dances. Plus, barring the intimidating constant rotation of the waltz room, most attendees were more focused on having fun than mastering technical steps.
Some rooms held dance contests as well, giving experienced social dancers a chance to show off their skills. Inexperienced social dancers, like myself, got the opportunity to watch and cheer along with their performances. One of my favorite parts of the night was watching the Freestyle Social Dance contest that displayed entertaining creative freestyle routines.
Throughout the evening, student groups like Swingtime and Los Salseros de Stanford performed in the various ballrooms — another fun activity that helped stave off any monotony. Switching frequently from room to room, I only had the chance to catch Swingtime’s performance. The group’s enthusiasm and flashy dance moves had me and the audience cheering loudly the whole time.
The night also featured scheduled choreographed dances such as the Bohemian National Polka and the Viennese Midnight Quadrille. In the swing room, beginners were encouraged to join along and learn as they went. Doing my best to follow along and laughing with the other novices in the back of the room was another highlight of my night .
Student groups such as the Stanford Light Opera Company and the Cardinal Ballet Company featured in the opening ceremony as well. The Viennese Ball Opening Committee gave delightfully elegant dances and did a particularly perfect job of setting a magical tone for the night.
Despite the opening ceremony’s beautiful performances, there were a few logistical hang-ups that dulled the experience. The ballroom that held the opening ceremony had an enormous dance floor, which attendees were told to evacuate for the performance, leaving them to pack into the narrow strips of carpet between the dance floor and walls. Guests towards the back of the crowd could be heard complaining about their inability to see the dance performances.
A similar issue occurred with the shuttles. The Viennese Ball offered students the option of purchasing a $5 round-trip bus ticket to the event — a much more affordable alternative to most other transportation options to San Francisco. While guests taking the shuttle to and from the event were told to select a bus time for their departure, there was no such selection possible for the return trip. Instead, a schedule for bus departure times was provided and students were told to get in line at least ten minutes before the scheduled bus departure time to ensure a spot on the bus. At the end of the night, attendees lined up over 15 minutes early for the final bus departure, but the buses quickly filled up and over 50 students were forced to figure out their own transportation back to campus.
Despite the small mishaps at the beginning and end of the night, the event was still executed well, and more importantly, fun. From the many dance rooms to the scheduled dances and student performances, the Stanford Viennese Ball was full of constant entertainment and has quickly cemented itself in my heart as one of my favorite campus traditions.
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.