Undeterred by crisis, Viennese waltz night away

Tue Feb 17, 2009 7:23pm EST
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By Sarah Marsh

VIENNA (Reuters) - After spending a month sewing the beading on to her white satin gown, Russian student Emma Akopjan is attending her first Vienna ball and hopes to forget the economic downturn for just one magical night.

The season is in full swing and showing few effects of the crisis, with many of the city's 450 balls fully booked and 300,000 people attending.

"It does not depend upon whether it is a time of crisis or not, balls were always in Vienna ... and you wish for just one night which is a fairytale," said the 21-year old economics student at the Moscow Ball in Vienna's neo-gothic city hall.

The Moscow Ball is one of the newest additions and highlights the Vienna season's international standing, with dozens of young Russians like Akopjan flying in to make their debut in a throw-back to a bygone era of imperial splendor.

Dancers twirl in gowns and black tails, or sip champagne and listen to the orchestra at tables decorated with white roses and scarlet amaryllis.

"Compared to last year's balls there is no difference. People still like to have fun," said Roland Krupitza, out of breath after dancing to Johann Strauss's "The Blue Danube."

Austria's economy declined in the fourth quarter of 2008 for the first time in eight years and the downturn is just beginning to make itself felt among the population.

Krupitza, 47, a tour operator, has seen a slowdown in business but that did not deter him and hundreds of others from dancing through the night.   Continued...

<p>Dancers enjoy the "Moskau-Ball" (Moscow ball) at Vienna's city hall February 12, 2009. REUTERS/Sarah Marsh</p>