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USTA Spencer Moy Debuts at Vienna Opera Ball

Every year, the Vienna State Opera hosts the Vienna Opera Ball, an extravagant event attended by many who number amongst Austria’s elite. The ball is always opened by a group of young dancers, and it is a true honor to be selected to open the ball. This year, current USTA Spencer Moy was chosen as one of the debutantes for the Vienna Opera Ball. This is her story.



Alles Waltzer: Opernball 2019

By Spencer Moy
USTA Spencer Moy (r.)

As part of the 2019 opening committee, our grand entrance was heralded by an upbeat, orchestral march written by beloved Austrian composer Johann Strauss. Set to the light yet authoritative melody of his Jubel Marsch, we promenaded into the Vienna State Opera ballroom with the music demanding the entire hall’s attention. However, much like the Austrians themselves, the music also managed to convey the point politely—it was almost 10 PM, and the Vienna Opera Ball Eröffnung was about to begin.

During our week of pre-ball preparation, I learned to find a safe haven in the melody. I let Strauss guide my movements—how long to hold my smile, how to time my footsteps correctly. I was initially introduced to this particular work through private waltz lessons with my partner, and I was further familiarized with the piece through two, day-long rehearsals at the Vienna Opera House. In the end, each passage was cemented into my memory after a final general rehearsal, where I had the distinct privilege of watching the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna State Opera Ballet, and renowned opera singers Anna Netrebko and Yusiv Eyvazov work out their final kinks before the big event, all from front-row seats.

The Wiener Opernball was a sparkling experience. Twenty-four hours after our last rehearsal, the space transformed into the physical embodiment of Austrian opulence. The addition of black-tie attire, Austrian elite, and a media presence even managed to shift the already-serious atmosphere into one laden with palpable historical weight. The Vienna Opera Ball has been received with both awe and disdain. The ball celebrates a rich cultural legacy dating back to 1814, but to some, the extravagance supports overtly capitalistic values. While protests of such displays now target the Vienna Akademikerball, the Vienna Opera Ball firmly remains the most highly anticipated event of the ball season, where each detail of the event—from the flower arrangements to the layout of the space—is treated with meticulous care and is justifiably watched with wonder and admiration on television screens nationwide.

As I peered into the ballroom over a balcony ledge, new and old friends surrounded me—some were headed to the basement disco, some to the casino, others to grab a Lebkuchenherz at the stand outside the opera boxes. Before I decided where I would head next, I took a moment to watch ball-goers of all ages dance and twirl to a classic rock cover. With a glass of wine in hand and a Swarovski tiara designed by Donatella Versace on my head, I had the solid sense that this moment would be the highlight of my year.

I am incredibly grateful to have been allowed to participate in a living piece of Austrian history. I am thankful to the committee for modernizing the ball tradition by inviting two Americans to debut alongside Austrian counterparts. Moreover, I am honored to have been asked to share my experiences with such renowned publications as Der Standard and Interview Magazine Germany, as well as the ORF (Österreichischer Rundfunk) and, of course, with the Fulbright community.


All photos courtesy of Spencer Moy.