A Short Look at the History of the Dancing School
How the Royal Educational Institute for Army Officer Daughters became a premier venue of social contact and entertainment, viz. the “Tanzschule Hernals Grossmann” Dancing School.
The starting point was August 24, 1747, when the foundation stone for a Pauline monastery was laid.
In 1784 the building was in the ownership of a certain Mr Römer, an officer and military accountant.
In 1785 it was acquired for the sum of 13,000 guilders by the charitable foundation backing the Royal Educational Institute for Army Officer Daughters
At that time, the institute accommodated 40 students, most of them daughter of widowed officers, with the age of admission set at eight years.
Six invalids were recruited to guard the building, which was at that time surrounded by fields and vineyards, in particular against break-ins.
In the course of time, the original range of compulsory subjects (piano, dancing, French und English) was expanded to include geometry, accounting, singing, housekeeping, world history, educational science, Italian, Hungarian or Bohemian, physical education and swimming (in an in-door fully equipped swimming pool).
At that time, the massive quadrangular building facing Kalvarienberggasse was filled with girlish laughter and cheerfulness, but there was also hard work and serious devotion to learning.
The girls were taught in the classrooms of the present high school at Geblergasse. Classes lasted from 09:00 to 18:00 and were interrupted only by a mid-day break and short walks in the garden. In the last years of the Institute, the school population had increased to 160 / 170.
Up to 1918, the extension of the subjects taught as well as the increase in the school population required constant reconstruction. But in the decades that followed, the subsequent owners were faced with similar challenges time and again. From 1918 to 1938 the building housed a school for female vocations, which was organised and administered in cooperation with the Girls’ High School in Boerhaavegasse in Vienna’s third district.
From 1939 to 1945 too, the building reflected current history. It was requisitioned by the Nazis, who used it as district headquarters for the women section of the NSDAP. During the last days of the Second World War, it was seriously damaged by bombs and subsequently looted by part of the local population, who carried away the things stored there by the Nazis (e.g. pieces of clothing) – obviously a criminal activity, which must, however, be judged in the context of the of the emergency situation prevailing at that time.
For some years in the post-war era, part of the block of buildings at 28A Kalvarienberggasse was used as a federal customs office and as a training centre for customs officers. The Federal Buildings Administration (which meantime had assumed responsibility for the structure) planned to house a school for female handicraft teachers there, a plan that was realised at a later stage.
And finally, to end the story, a dancing school was launched in the building at 28A Kalvarienberggasse in 1946, a school that still exists today under the name “Tanzschule Hernals Grossmann”.
By chance it was possible to save the interior fittings of a baroque hall of the former Rothschild palace from the demolition ball and to reintegrate them into the school building in line with the original style when it was refurbished in 1954.
All the rooms in the building have since served as venues for concert evenings and various social events organised by the Tanzschule Hernals Grossmann Dancing School. The baroque hall has been modernised and redecorated at a large expense only recently.
The building is now widely known also outside Vienna for its elegant and well-kept rooms, and is definitely worth a visit.