How are preparations for the Vienna Ball going at the National Opera of Ukraine? How will this ball be different from last year’s? What surprises are in the offing? The organizers did more than answer these questions: they illustrated them by putting on a display of formal evening wear and then offered a crash course in dancing for all comers.
The master class for journalists was conducted by the ball’s chief choreographer, Hryhorii Chapkis, who made his name in Ukraine as a judge on the television show “Dancing with the Stars.” Demonstrating several dance steps, he said, “Just try to relax, listen to the music, and enjoy the dance.” It took Chapkis five minutes to teach the journalists to dance a waltz. Believe me, it was an unforgettable lesson. After dancing a waltz with the maestro, I felt justifiably proud when he praised me. Now I am looking forward to Dec. 1, when I will attend the ball and dance with him again.
It is expected that this year’s ball will be attended by some 2,000 guests, including members of the Ukrainian government, politicians, businesspeople, diplomats accredited to Ukraine, public and cultural figures, students of Kyiv higher educational establishments, and cadets from the military lycee. The ball will be opened by 24 pairs of debutants from noted Ukrainian families, who began learning ballroom dancing only a month ago. They will perform a polonaise to Tchaikovsky’s music.
Bolshoi prima ballerina Anastasia Volochkova and Ukraine’s celebrated tenor Volodymyr Hryshko will perform to the accompaniment of the National Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra. Contestants of the popular TV show “Dancing with the Stars” are expected to perform demonstration dances. There will be a dance competition, a parade of evening dresses created by leading Italian designers, an auction of works by modern Ukrainian artists, and a lottery for the guests at the ball. All proceeds (with admission tickets ranging between 1,000 and 2,500 hryvnias) will go to charitable projects, including the purchase of medical equipment.
The Vienna Ball starts at 10 p.m. and will end sometime in the morning. The theater’s parterre will be converted into a hall for dancing (the rows of seats will be replaced by a special 500 m? floor covering. The organizers took into account last year’s experience and decided to diversify the program, so that concert numbers will alternate with dancing and socializing. The ball will end with an announcement of the three best dance pairs, who will be awarded valuable prizes. Chapkis says that this year all of Ukraine’s ballroom dancing schools saw a rise in enrollments in response to increasing public interest in this type of dancing. Whereas last year’s competition was dominated by professionals and non-Ukrainians, this year is likely to see a greater number of Ukrainian competitors.
“We want to revive the aristocratic tradition of ballroom dancing in Ukraine,” said Denys Kudin, director general of the Diplomat Service Company, adding that “The Vienna Opera Ball is a brand and the world’s most prestigious cultural event. It has been held at the Vienna Opera on the last Thursday of Mardi Gras since 1899.
“The first ‘classical’ Vienna Ball was held at the National Opera of Ukraine in 2005. We have been preparing for this one all year, keeping in mind the shortcomings of previous balls that were held at Kyiv’s City Hall and Zhovtnevy Palace. We are being assisted by UniCredit Bank, because organizing this ball requires huge amounts of money. Our immediate plans envisage holding Viennese balls in other Ukrainian cities.”