Russian Ball chairman and chairwoman Paul and Irina du Quenoy canoodle on the stairs of a downtown social club during the annual soiree on Jan. 12. (Kate Warren for The Washington Post)

As snow swirled into the District on Saturday during the longest government shutdown in history, invitees gathered in tails and ballgowns for the annual Russian Ball at a glitzy ballroom at a private downtown social club. Despite chilly foreign relations between the United States and “Mother Russia,” politics seemed far from guests' minds as they partied late into the night with fellow descendants of Russian royalty.

Year after year, the white-tie gala continues to hold a unique place in Washington’s social calendar, offering a theatrical evening of vodka, Rachmaninoff and extravagant ballroom dancing. Despite the formality of the setting, everyone is friendly as can be and social posturing remains virtually nonexistent — a rarity on the D.C. party circuit. First-timers stand agog at the sheer spectacle, and return guests are warmly embraced as family. Nasdarovje (cheers) to that.


Robin Phillips, left, chats with Countess Suzanne Tolstoy, center, at the party. (Kate Warren for The Washington Post)

Richard Bray, of the Richard Bray Orchestra, reads the paper during warm-ups for the Russian Ball. The Orchestra has played galas and balls around the District for many years, and is one of the few remaining classic ballroom bands. (Kate Warren for The Washington Post)

George and Kim Bentz were the first on the dance floor to showcase their formidable moves. (Kate Warren for The Washington Post)

Concert pianist Elida Dakoli performs Rachmaninoff and other Russian classics. (Kate Warren for The Washington Post)

Guests and descendants of Russian royal families drank vodka, danced and partied late into the night as a blanket of snow romantically swirled into Washington on Jan. 12. (Kate Warren for The Washington Post)