Diana Belchase

A Spy at the Ball

       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.

     Sigh.

     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. 

9 replies »

  1. Ooh, I love this post! You paint such a vivid picture, I can almost picture DH and I there with you 🙂 I laughed when I read about you checking out the alternative exits and stairwells! You know you’re a writer when…
    What did you mean about dancing counter-clockwise? Is that a ballroom thing?
    If that’s you in the beautiful velvety black dress, you look gorgeous!

    • Yes, the waltz is danced counter-clockwise. Watching people who know how to do this is absolutely mesmerizing. I describe this in my novel, The Spy in the Mirror, this way:

      “Like a school of jeweled fish, the dancers around them swirled in precise formation. He drew her into the swell and rhythm, breaking pattern only once to stroke her cheek with the back of his hand.”

      Thanks so much for joining me here, Jacquie.

      XO

  2. Oh Di, this was so beautifully written and made me feel like I was right there with you, watching the characters of your story come to life while seeking out fun nooks and crannies for all sorts of shenanigans.

    Until the tango begins to play. Then all bets are off… @->->—

  3. You have the most interesting life, Diana! I’d love to attend a ball like that one day. And you look absolutely beautiful. I’m so glad you had a wonderful time and I can’t wait to read about Trina’s ball. Hopefully one day soon!

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