I grew up in the East End of Montreal, just north of a Canadian Forces Base and West of a psychiatric hospital. Dancing was not a part of my world. Singing yes, drinking, sure—my mother’s family is Canadian by way of Ireland—but dancing, no. Not that it mattered, by the time I was in high school, formal dancing had virtually disappeared, to be replaced by standing across from your partner and throwing your head and shoulders about.
Forty-eight years on from my high school graduation and I still can’t dance. Taking dance lessons is on my list, along with a lot of other things I’ll never get around to, but in the meantime, I stand mesmerized, watching those couples who can swirl about the floor, graceful, confident…
Like Sophie Grau and Iris Klopfer.
After seeing videos of past Balls, Sophie and Iris, friends who identify as queer and have been dancing together for five years, decided to apply to make their debut at the Vienna Opera Ball.
It’s, as Sophie says, “the perfect dance.” One hundred and fifty couples in black and white formal wear, all dancing to the same routine, in the historic grandeur of the Vienna State Opera House.
LGBTQ participants, or not, Sophie and Iris have to adhere to the Ball’s strict dress code. Iris who, with her longer hair can pull off the Ball’s requisite hairstyle, is going with the dress, and Sophie, who is non-binary and feels more comfortable in a suit, is opting for the tux.
The Vienna Opera Ball, which dates back to the early 1800s, has 5,000 registered guests this year and will be watched live by 2.5 million viewers. Over the years, it has embraced a tradition of change, transforming itself from an exclusive event for the few to an elegant party for the many. With the inclusion of Sophie and Iris, the first LGBTQ couple to make their debut at the Ball, that tradition is tweaked yet again, merging the past with the future in grand style.