Germany's Sophie Grau (R) and her dance partner Iris Klopfer pose for a picture during their rehearsal at the State Opera prior to Vienna's prestigious Opera Ball.
VIENNA - When Sophie Grau and Iris Klopfer take to the floor as two of the debutants at Vienna's prestigious Opera Ball on Thursday, they will be dancing their way into history.
It will be the first time that a same-sex pair of dancers figures among those whirling their way through the ball's opening ceremony.
The event is the highlight of Vienna's annual ball season, watched by some 5,000 people in the lavish State Opera building and about two million on television.
Sophie and Iris have been friends since high school in their native Germany and, like most of the other pairs, are not a couple outside the dance floor.
They showed few nerves at one of the final rehearsals on Sunday as they smiled and chatted with fellow dancers in between routines.
"Right now we're really chilled but you always have that moment before you go on stage when all the nerves kick in," said Sophie.
Like all the others taking part, Sophie and 22-year-old Iris had to make it through the ball's rigorous selection process -- the foremost requirement being mastery of the Viennese waltz.
While they insist they went through the effort purely out of love for dance, there is a message as well.
"We're trying to use this platform...to just say that it doesn't matter what you have in your pants or what you were born with, you can dance whatever part you want to," Sophie said.
"All that matters for a pair of dancers is whether you dance well together and whether you have fun doing it," she adds.
If anyone is uneasy at this re-invention of one of Vienna's most venerable traditions, it's certainly not ball organiser Maria Grossbauer.