The 5,500 guests who waltzed through the night at this year's Vienna Opera Ball, the glittering highlight of Austria's social calendar, swept the world's financial woes under the red carpet, at least for a few hours on Thursday evening.
The glitzy opening ceremony featured the dance of the debutantes, 160 young couples making their debut in Vienna's high society.
Then, with the words "Alles Walzer" (Everybody Waltz), the floor was opened up to the other guests -- Austria's political, business and social elite all dressed to the nines in tailcoats and ballgowns -- who waltzed to the strains of "The Blue Danube."
Couples dance at the Vienna Opera Ball on February 19, 2009. 5,500 guests waltzed through the night at this year's ball, the glittering highlight of Austria's social calendar.
"Desperate Housewives" star Nicollette Sheridan brought a touch of Hollywood glamour to what is by far the most opulent of the nigh-on 1,000 balls held in the Austrian capital during Carnival season.
The spectre of recession was temporarily banished by the hundreds of dazzling chandeliers that light up Vienna's legendary opera house, spectacular festoons of flowers and a seemingly never-ending stream of champagne.
A number of business leaders cancelled this year. At a time when many Austrian companies are laying off workers as a result of the global economic and financial crisis, it was not thought appropriate to fork out anywhere near the 42,000 euros (53,000 dollars) for one of the opera house's boxes.
Volksbank and Constantia, two banks severely hit by the financial crisis, gave back the boxes they had booked in recent years.
Even top companies, such as steelmaker Voestalpine and Japanese car maker Toyota discreetly decided to forego their usual boxes.
Nevertheless, this year's event -- which marked the 140th anniversary of the Vienna Opera Ball -- was completely sold out. The country's political guard, too, were out in force, with President Heinz Fischer, Chancellor Werner Faymann and his deputy Josef Proell all occupying the box of honour.
"Austria is well positioned in the crisis, so why should we cancel the ball," said President Fischer.
Outside the ornate opera house, 400 police officers were on guard in case any demonstrations might turn nasty, as they have done in previous years.
But few protestors chose to brave the snow and icy winds buffeting the city and the evening passed without incident.
Because 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of the death of composer Josef Haydn, his music occupied pride of place on the evening's programme.
The ball also paid homage to the city of Linz, which is one of Europe's two cultural capitals this year.
The guests are given the full run of the legendary opera house for the evening: in addition to the ballroom in the main auditorium, small bars and discos are hidden away in every corner of the building, playing not only classical waltzes, but pop and jazz as well.
Guests paid 230 euros for their tickets, but also had to dig deep for refreshments, with beer costing eight euros and a glass of champagne 29 euros.
But no price could be too high "for being a princess for the evening," whispered one young debutante.
This is what it might sound like. You can take a magical trip to Vienna and languish for ten minutes. If you wish, you can flip through the society photos and then the panoramic views while listening to the Blue Danube Waltz. Imagine you're there.
Our ballroom dance 'troupe' will really have to up the ante to attend this. Not sure how one navigates this packed room, but it may actually be of some help...small steps. I love the nosegays the young women are carrying. Why the Nicolette Sheridan appearance. Is that really necessary?
If you wish to take a panoramic tour of the facility...click on the various pictures.....
I bet most of these people are home this weekend soaking their feet! We'll still be watching hockey.
Credits: Toronto Star and France 24