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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Magic of the Ball Returns to Snowy Moscow

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'Tis the season to celebrate. Following last month's holiday din, hundreds of people — many of them expats — are ready once again to trade weather-sensible clothes for evening gowns and tuxedos.

On Saturday evening, the foreign community will host two parties. The city's only international rugby club, the Moscow Dragons, will host a St. Valentine's Day ball, and the Association of Belgians in Russia and the Dutch Club Moscow (Nederlandse Vereniging Moscow) will hold their second annual BeNeLux Gala Ball.

The balls mark the second weekend in a row of glitter and gold for those who attended last Friday's sold-out Embassies of the World Dinner and Ball, the annual fund-raising event held by the International Women's Club. On Saturday, too, there was the 300-guest Scottish Evening, which, like the IWC ball, garnered more interest than there were available tickets.

"Despite the snow, despite everything, it didn't dampen anybody's spirit," said IWC president Nina Lambah, wife of the Indian ambassador.

Almost without exception, the IWC's potpourri of guests, approximately 400 men and women from both the city's business and diplomatic corps, were dressed to the elegant nines, dancing and mingling under the chandeliers at the Czech Embassy until well past midnight. Interest was high enough that the IWC did not take reservations and several hopefuls were not able to attend.

"People are starting to know that it's a fantastic ball. … Next year they will learn [that the ball is] first come, first serve," said the IWC's Juliana Hesseling.

More bash than ball, the rugby club's event — where black tie is the preferred dress — should prove a bit less formal.

The Dragons' membership includes 20 nationalities and the club is a healthy mix of the adventurous, the sporty and the social. Composed mostly of male players and female social members (although there are crossovers), the Dragons say the ball can accommodate 250 guests. Tickets cost $90, with proceeds going to charity. Last year's ball earned $2,000 for charity and this year organizers hope to top that figure.

"A big, fat party with posh food and posh clothes is the best way to describe it," said Karina Friedhoff, who serves as the club's social secretary.

Doors open at 7 p.m. at the ball. The evening begins with a performance by a jazz quartet and a champagne reception, followed by a buffet and a sit-down dinner, plus entertainment by a strolling magician, a raffle, live music, dancing and a slave auction, which puts the players on the block for cooking, cleaning or dating services.

Guy Marchland, chairman of the association of Belgians in Russia, said that in Belgium and the Netherlands, football and cycling are more popular than rugby, indicating that their party could reflect that difference.

Intended for Belgians, Dutch and "their friends," the second annual BeNeLux ball — where black tie is also preferred— celebrates a partnership that began in the early 20th century between Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and included the signing in 1958 of the Treaty of the Benelux Economic Union, which is considered the prelude to today's European Union.

"It is a guaranteed success, because when you put Belgians and Dutch together, it's always fun, and they enjoy some beer together," Marchland said. "You can be assured that when you put those two small countries together, it's always very good ambiance."

The $50 BeNeLux ticket entitles holders, among them the Belgian and Dutch ambassadors, to dinner and entertainment.

And for potential ball-goers who envision spending Valentine's weekend with a traditional dinner for two, Friedhoff had this response:

"Why have a boring meal for two when you can go out with your loved one and have a great laugh with a load of other people? Or find yourself a loved one."

The Moscow Dragons Valentine's Ball begins at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Yar restaurant, located at 32/2 Leningradsky Prospekt. Metro Dynamo. For information, contact Michael Bolan at 8-901-718-3094 or e-mail moscowdragons@usa.net. To purchase an invitation to the BeNeLux ball, which takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Radisson Slavjanskaya Hotel (2 Berezhkovskaya Naberezhnaya, metro Kievskaya), Belgian citizens and their friends are invited to call 792-8167 or send e-mail to marchand@co.ru. Dutch citizens and their friends should e-mail andre.verkade@minbuza.nl or visit www.nvm.ru