Break out the ball gowns, the season is under way

The Prague Post

The Slovak Ball celebrates a special cultural relationship

While most people associate the ball season with Vienna and its famous social events, this stylish series of soirees is popular in the Czech Republic as well. One of the most well-known is the Slovak Ball, being held this weekend at Žofín.

“The Slovak Ball is traditionally one of the peaks of the cultural season in Prague,” says Daniela Nová, team assistant for PosAm Praha, which is helping organize the event. “It offers a place for Slovaks who live in the Czech Republic to meet; it supports the Slovak community as well as the cooperation between Slovaks and Czechs.”

The tradition of balls reaches back to the Habsburg monarchy. Originally, ball season was a type of carnival, ending on Ash Wednesday. The waltz was made famous through the balls — even if it was first rejected as immoral. What now seems old school was initially a shocking addition to the previously staid events.

But Austria has no monopoly on these swanky social affairs, which have become very popular in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Children from both countries take lessons to be able to participate. While the Slovak Ball is quite ritzy, affairs of this sort can be found across the country, ranging from formal, sophisticated urban events to small village gatherings put on by local clubs.

This will be the 39th annual Slovak Ball. The first took place in April 1969 for a mixed crowd of Czechs and Slovaks. The idea was to give Slovaks living in Prague an opportunity to invite the general Czech public to a fancy social event. Both Czech and Slovak performers entertained at the inaugural event, which was held at Cernínský palác in space provided by the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The event caught on and moved to bigger and nicer settings throughout the years, including Obecní dum, before settling at Žofín. In 1989, the Club of Slovak Culture took over as organizers, putting together a program that highlights the Czech-Slovak relationship. The club holds lectures, seminars, performances of folk groups and art exhibitions to raise the visibility of Slovak culture in the Czech Republic.

Part of the importance of the ball is keeping Slovak traditions alive in the Czech lands. Slovak folk music is played, and traditional dance groups perform, along with contemporary artists, singers and actors. High-society Slovak attendees include politicians, celebrities and business people. It’s the combination of all these elements that makes the event a distinctive one.

“Its atmosphere is traditionally unique,” Nová says. “The ball is attended by more than 1,000 guests each year, and there are more than 100 artists from a variety of genres performing.”

This year’s entertainment highlights include Slovak pop group Peha, Slovak pop singer Zuzana Smatanová, and Dara Rollins, a Slovak singer who lives in the Czech Republic.

“This year’s uniquely composed program will be moderated by Slovak actor Juraj Kukura,” Nová says. “The dinner will be traditional Slovak delicacies.”

There are still tickets available, so you can sample the best of Slovak culture while enjoying what could be a once-in-a-lifetime, fairy tale experience amid well-dressed men gracefully dancing with lovely, chic ladies.

Just hang on to your glass slipper.