Nesvizh Castle stays awake all night long

This century’s first Palace Ball has been hosted by Nesvizh Castle, renewing an age old tradition at the former Radziwills’ restored residence. Bright torches, knights on horses, a red carpet and champagne welcomed guests, accompanied by the waltzes of Johann Strauss
By Viktar Korbut

An Italian chef served dishes from past centuries, within a marquee placed in the inner courtyard. Sampling ocean perch with salmon and drinking expensive red wine, the revellers were treated to a performance by dancer Anastasia Volochkova, who came to Nesvizh especially for the event. She tells us, “I accepted the invitation to take part in the Palace Ball with pleasure, even postponing shooting of an episode of TV’s Dancing with the Stars.”

The event was rather like a fairy tale, bringing together over 150 cultural workers from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, alongside Miss World Rosanna Davison (the daughter of Irish singer Chris de Burgh). The Theatre Hall was especially crowded, with a game of forfeits underway. One young lady had the task of kissing the first man to next enter the hall: Culture Minister Pavel Latushko.

Shortly before midnight, guests took part in summoning the spirits with a Ouija board, divided into ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘probably’, with a pointing arrow answering questions. One of the ladies wanted to know if her daughter would have a happy future, to which the spirit answered ‘probably’. One couldn’t but wonder if the spirit was that of the Black Lady -- the famous Nesvizh ghost.

In the next room, an actor playing Karol Stanislaw Radziwill Panie Kochanku entertained guests with banter. The famous 18th century magnate assured one guest that he’d once been shattered into several parts by gunshot but the guest shook his head in disbelief. Guests enjoyed fireworks, theatrical performances and the riding of sledges, as well as singing by Belarusian opera divas and Russian actor Dmitry Kharatyan. Mini-performances based on works by 18th century playwright Franciszka Urszula Radziwill also created the perfect atmosphere.

The Director of the Palace Ball, Veronika Ilyash, kept guests entertained every minute, telling us, “We haven’t just revived the tradition of having balls, as the Radziwills once did; we’ve adapted ideas to suit modern tastes. First of all, we used the tradition of opening the ball with a polonaise and organised the room so that guests could join the dancing at any time. Of course, the main purpose of balls is to bring people together; it was true many decades ago, and remains so now.”

The night featured not only waltzes but ballads and folk music, creating a wonderful atmosphere of a bygone age, celebrating Belarusian culture. Sergey Klimov, Director of the National Historical and Cultural Museum-Reserve of Nesvizh, plans to organise similar events once or twice a year. He explains, “This will attract tourists to Nesvizh Castle and generate profit, while allowing us to revive an authentic atmosphere at the Radziwills’ residence.”

According to Mr. Latushko, the Palace Ball marks a new page in the history of the country’s culture. He notes, “Such actions are vital to understanding the depth of our history and our roots.” Everyone enjoyed the event, which was due to end about 2am. However, the final guests left only as dawn began to break.
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