What is the Vienna Life Ball?

In Vienna, Vienna Local Experiences by CarlyLeave a Comment

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The next few weeks in Vienna are shaping up to be incredible. In just 12 days it’s going to be EUROVISION SONG CONTEST TIME WHOO which I am extremely over the top excited about, and this weekend is the Vienna Life Ball. Life Ball is one of my favourite events to attend as a spectator, it also is the first sign that summer and party season is really about to kick off.

So what is the Vienna Life Ball?

As far as I’m concerned, the Vienna Life Ball is a wonderful excuse for the normally reserved Viennese to wear crazy costumes, body paint, and walk the Ringstrasse half-naked. At least, that was what I understood best about the Ball the first year I lived here. The real purpose of the ball, is actually much more important – it’s one of the biggest AIDS charity galas globally. Raising funds and fighting the taboo status of HIV/AIDS through a glamorous celebration, the Life Ball is known as one of the most successful AIDS charity events worldwide. The ball is held in the Rathaus (town hall) of Vienna in the traditional Viennese style, but always with a cheeky twist.

Cheeky BumYes, I do mean that literally – it’s a cheeky event!

What Happens?

The event itself involves a decadent opening ceremony, where spectators (like me) can ogle the extravagant costumes as guests arrive on the red carpet. Bring your camera because it’s always quite a sight! Over 4,000 people attend the Life Ball yearly and tickets are extremely difficult to get your hands on. Don’t worry though, as a mere spectator to the opening ceremony you can still enjoy the artistic performances, watch the fashion show and hear speeches from international guests such as Billl Clinton, Elton John and Hilary Swank, encouraging support of HIV/AIDS causes. Free viewing of awesome outfits, inspiring speeches and a fashion show? Yes please!

This year, Jean Paul Gaultier is curating the fashion show with an exclusive retrospective, followed by the Awarding of the Swarvoski Crystal of Hope Award that’s given to organisations showing exceptional commitment to combating AIDS. The Award for 2015 is going to Senetable, a charity founded by Prince Harry – so if I’m very lucky I might even spot Harry this weekend *swoon*. More importantly though, his charity does incredible work helping Lesotho’s vulnerable and AIDS affected children.

The main ball and party after the fashion show is ticketed and takes place inside the Rathaus – a venue normally reserved for staid political gatherings or the more formal balls. The night of Life Ball however, all bets are off, so burlesque dancers, singers, cabaret acts, models and politicians can party beside each other in flamboyant costumes and never fear the consequences. Such is the power and beauty of the Life Ball!

Every Party Needs a Theme

If you’ve ever held a costume party you will know the value of a solid theme. Three years of hosting wild student-theatre parties in Melbourne taught me that a good theme always leads to a killer party. The Vienna Life Ball is no different. Each year the organisers announce the theme for the Ball well in advance so attendees can plan their outfits accordingly. Previous years theme’s have been ‘Fight the flames of Lust’ (2012), ‘Once Upon a Time’ (2007), 1001 Nights (2013) and last years ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych of the same name. And these guys really go for it with the costumes:

Fabulous ladiesVienna – where taking a horse and carriage dressed like this is encouraged

Choice outfits from 2014 arrivals


There is an actual tree growing out of his head

Being Austrian and particularly detail oriented, the organisers even release a ‘Style Bible‘ defining the theme and providing inspiration for costume makers. How brilliant is that?! ‘Here’s our theme and here’s some costume inspiration and here’s all the mythological and artistic inspiration behind the theme, now GO MAKE IT AMAZING.’ I truly do adore the Austrian eye for detail.

2015 Life Ball Theme

This year’s theme is set to sell out all body paint stocks in the city entirely. The theme is ‘Gold – Ver Sacrum/ Santa Primavera /Sacred Printemps’. Inspired by the turn of the 19th Century secessionists movement in Vienna, the theme intends

‘To awaken a spirit of optimism, liveliness and activity in every single person’

Ver Sacrum  was an ancient Roman festival celebrating spring and re-awakening, while Santa Primav — look you know what? Check out the Life Ball official explanation here. I can in no way do it justice. Just trust me when I say it’s going to be decadent, golden and full of artistically inspired outfits. With lots and lots of gold body paint. The theme also gifted us this magnificent vision of Conchita re-imagined as Gustav Klimt’s ‘Golden Adele’

Conceit Life Ball ad


Life Ball Madness

Outside of the Ball itself, the whole city of Vienna celebrates the support of AIDS awareness. Trams get re-painted as re-purposed on the day as ‘Life Ball trams’ for performers and Ball guests. The Parliament building proudly displays an AIDS awareness ribbon, the official speakers at the Ball are broadcast across TV screens in the main city square and outside the event. This year, the city has even created brand new gay-friendly traffic light symbols showing lovers in honour of the Life Ball and upcoming Eurovision.


Supporting AidsVienna’s Parliament building decked out for the Ball, 2014

Vienna Gay Traffic LightsTraffic lights supporting love and same-sex couples – 49 intersections received the fun new lights in the lead to Life Ball & Eurovision

I cannot wait to get down to Rathaus this Saturday and enjoy the costumes, the craziness, the speeches raising awareness and the artistry of the event itself. The performances are always fantastic and creative, while the energy of the city is throbbing the whole night. If you are anywhere near Vienna take the time to enjoy the atmosphere. If you’re not in town, well, there’s always next year!

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