I’ve always dreamt of being at a grand ball and waltzing.
The image of tall, mysterious men circling a floor to the strains of Strauss, while their partners’ dresses billow behind them, is incredibly romantic – like a music box springing to life.
Too bad it only happens in novels.
So, when the invitation came for a true Viennese Ball at the National Museum for Women in the Arts, I begged my husband to go. It was a wonderful cause and the fairytale event every girl dreams of. Poor guy never stood a chance. Imagine, a beaux art mansion in the middle of D.C., a candle-lit dinner on the mezzanine, overlooking the marble dance floor where a twenty-piece orchestra played.
My imagination has played this scene for so long it morphed into the first chapter of my spy novel. My heroine sneaks into a very fancy, very private ball in modern day Budapest in a mansion overlooking the Danube. The adventure takes her to Hong Kong where she battles traitors and falls in love. So, even if the view was that of
New York Avenue, instead of Strauss’ famed river, the ball really was a fantasy come true.
It’s amazing how plots get inspired by these kinds of settings. While other people worried about dance steps, or romancing their partner, my husband had to deal with me checking out alternative exits, stairwells, and figuring out who might make a good villain in my next book. It’s wonderful when every event takes on the nuances of a Bond film. Too bad it is more exciting in my head than in real life.
And, oh the beautiful people! Everyone wore black tie. Some women went for full ball gowns, and military men, in perfectly fitted dress uniforms, sparkled with medals. There were couples who put Fred and Ginger to shame, and then there were couples like my husband and me – let’s just say my toes will never be quite the same. Still, I wouldn’t have traded him for any other guy in the room.
By the time the evening was over, we’d met some lovely people, got the hang of dancing counter-clockwise, participated in the grand march, and learned the quadrille.
And every now and then, behind billowing ball gowns and marble pillars, I may have seen my hero and heroine laughing, as they danced in the night.