I am in Vienna on my way back from Salzburg after presenting at the World Federation of Neurology meeting. I want to see the town of Mayerling where the Crown Prince of Austria had committed suicide. I had never experienced tragedy in my family at that time, I was only twenty-nine, traveling the world as a medical presenter of research, and seeing places that heretofore I had only read in fiction or watched in a movie.
In Mayerling Omar Sharif plays the Austrian Crown prince with his dark velvet eyes, falling in love with the wrong person, opposing his father’s feudal ways, and finally reneging all the comforts of a Princely life and ending in tragedy. I travelled to Vienna to see Mayerling, which lies an hour, and half outside Vienna and meanwhile, I came upon a gem on my first evening in Vienna.
The travel agent has chosen my hotel in downtown Vienna, the sort of European hotel where you want to only come back to sleep.
I walk out of the aging hotel and someone tells me there is a free Viennese Waltz at the Park close by. I hurry over. The Viennese waltz is in my opinion the finest dance that fulfills almost all the requirements of sharia by keeping the couple at arms length and the women wear long gloves
I hurry to the park and enter into an enchanted enclosure of greenery in the middle of the city. The dense greenery shuts off the sound of traffic, and other city noise. I enter an archway which opens into a large ballroom, the floor of which is made of hardwood which looks like it has seen better days, the large hall has high ceiling of stucco carved into an intricate design which speaks of good days when it was elegant and fashionable and now has aged and dropped into the realm of the commoner.
I a lover of Schubert’s waltzes have never been able to find a partner who loved that dance as much as I do and thus I have been a partner less observer all these years.
I find a seat with a group of large middle-aged German women and sense a suppressed excitement of anticipation at the table, they are talking in German, which I do not understand. I look around the room and realize that I am the youngest person by decades in the room and the only one dressed in a red silk skirt totally by chance which swirls if I turn quickly. How did I come to be wearing this to a Viennese waltz it is more appropriate for a Latin salsa dance isn’t it I ask myself, but then I am not here to dance but to watch.
There is a flurry of excitement at the entrance and a group of men in elegant long tailed black tuxedos enter with a flourish. These are handsome young Viennese men with gleaming russet or deep blonde hair accompanied by beautiful blonde white women in period dresses. I feel I have stepped into one of Leo Tolstoy’s books describing the formal dances held at the Czars palace. The worn look of the floor and the aging women sitting next to me at the table, living in the past fades into the background. The formally clad couples move to one end of the room and large speakers are set up.
The youngest male dancer in his black tuxedo, his hair gleaming in the dying rays of the sun turns and looks directly to me as I clutch my pocket book in my lap. I feel I am in a movie and all the characters have come alive.
He then turns to the woman in a beautiful ballroom floor-length white dress, the lights are lowered, the shadows of evening have lengthened and the room is suffused with the pink shades of the setting sun. The subtle sparkles in the white ballroom dress of the lady shimmer as she turns to enter the dance floor to the opening strains of Straus Blue Danube, which fill the room with soft beauty, nostalgia and a promise of romance… I watch entranced as I am transported to another era of western grandeur. Suddenly I notice that the young man in the tuxedo is standing in front of me with his hand outstretched…………..
I shake my head regretfully……….
Here is what my grandson will say at my memorial service one day:
I am not sure I loved her but I admired her especially for the enlivening “kitty dance” which I learned was entirely an invention of hers.
It was much later that I realized that the music and movements she used for the kitty dance came from Schubert’s Viennese waltz the blue Danube.
Though instead of leading a lady to the other end of the room, I was the cat moving gracefully to the other end where lay the mouse hole, when the mouse escaped I hopped with easy dance steps to the other side of the room to catch, all the while holding my arms stiff and extended to prevent the mouse from escaping. Back and forth we went as the Blue Danube played out of her iPhone and filled our living room with the excitement of chase.
Where in the world did she come up with the idea of transforming a romantic Viennese waltz into the kitty dance?