Politics not on the agenda at the National Press Ball 2016 | Lifestyle | DW | 26.11.2016
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Politics not on the agenda at the National Press Ball 2016

While Chancellor Angela Merkel was booked out, President Joachim Gauck tried not to talk politics. Glitter, glamour, outrageous garb and of course dancing marked this year's bash in a retro look.

Thomas de Maiziere, his wife Martina, Joachim Gauck and Daniela Schadt in the Hotel Adlon in Berlin (picture-alliance/dpa/W. Kumm)

Proceeding to the dance floor: German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, his wife Martina (far right) along with German President Joachim Gauck and his partner Daniela Schadt

A social gathering that's not only about the dancing, the 65th German Press Ball saw President Joachim Gauck joined in Berlin by 2,500 politicians, journalists and celebrities Friday evening (25.11.2016).

The German Press Ball is one event that Gauck enjoys attending. "It's interesting to see that in spite of problems people can meet here in celebration. That's something we can insist on despite everything going on around us.”

Daniela Schadt, Gauck's partner, hinted at what the president might have meant with that ultimate phrase. "These are serious times. One can celebrate - while also keeping in the back of our minds that there are members of the media for whom things are not going so well." The profits taken in from a raffle at the Press Ball will go to support those journalists in need.

Claudia Roth in a daring red dress (Getty Images/C. Billan)

Claudia Roth, vice-president of the German parliament, wielding a mighty train

That this will likely be the last German Press Ball to which Schadt will be accompanying the sitting president does not bother her. "It's also good when something new comes along." While she said it is "easy to be a bit melancholy," she added, "with so many attractions, it's also easy to get distracted."

That's true. At the Hotel Adlon, located directly on Pariser Platz within direct sightline of the Brandenburg Gate, several different bands are all on a quest for the appropriate dance music. The options range from rock'n'roll and 50s music to current beats. There's also top cuisine on offer to ensure that no one goes without. With a glance in Gauck's direction, the two-star chef Hendirk Otto, explains that one of the potato dishes - Niederauer Kartoffeln - is on offer "because we heard that the president enjoys fried potatoes immensely."

Gauck, the dancer

When we asked Daniela Schadt if her partner is a good dancer, she didn't hesitate to reply: "Naturally!” Still, Schadt had to do without her dance partner on the opening number, which is traditionally reserved for the woman accompanying the head of the Federal Press Conference (BPK).

For a moment, it appeared as though that first dance of the evening would not come to fruition. But "after a minor health mishap," the president was happy that he had managed to attend. He was especially satisfied to have nice conversations throughout the evening. Seated at his table was, for example, the French ambassador. "I hope we won't spend the whole evening discussing the upcoming elections in France," he told DW with a wink early in the evening. "Perhaps we might even get away from politics at some point."

President Gauck in a DW-interview (DW)

President Gauck in a DW-interview

Gauck was hoping for something similar in his talks with members of the media; the German Press Ball is, after all, hosted by the National Press Conference, an organization of journalists working in Berlin and Bonn. Gauck had warm words for his hosts. "We have wonderful media. And we have the right to enjoy each other in a relaxed way."

Deutsche Welle is a media partner of the German Press Ball - and reported live from the event on Facebook and Twitter.

"Facebook is a major driver for Deutsche Welle," explained DW General Director Peter Limbourg. "We are happy that we have these additional channels for communication that we didn't have before, when we only had shortwave radio, television and online."

Singer Rea Garvey and his partner (DW)

Singer Rea Garvey and his partner

Manuela Schwesig, Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, is active on Facebook and Twitter, she told DW from the red carpet. Germany's Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maizière, has refrained from getting an individual account however. Though the press ball was "a bit of work" for him as a governmental minister, he was pleased to be able to have non-political discussions with his colleagues. "We talk a lot about politics. Sometimes too much. The work today is an opportunity to do something a bit different."

Chancellor Merkel was busy

The evening is the perfect opportunity to get all dolled up, as Claudia Roth, vice president of the German parliament, proved when she arrived in a long violet-red evening gown. For his part, Transportation Minister Alexander Dobrindt chose a dark, shimmery suit.

Notably missing among the 2,500 guests from the political, business and culture arena was Angela Merkel. "The chancellor is attending a regional conference held by her party. I'm sure she wishes us all a lovely evening," said government spokesperson Steffen Seibert. 

Soccer player Arne Friedrich (DW)

Soccer player Arne Friedrich

It wasn't just politicians and journalists in attendance. Athletes likewise hit the red carpet, including Arne Friedrich, a former member of the German national football team. He used his time in front of the cameras to comment on the situation facing his former trainer, Jürgen Klinsmann, recently released from his contract as coach for the US men's soccer team.

"Those are the rules in football. The trainer is often the first to go. I would have been thrilled if he'd had the chance to continue. Jürgen is a great guy, and he knows what he's doing. He'll definitely find another good job.”

With the motto "Looking Back and Time Travel," this year's gala was reflected in its 1970s look. Actress Uschi Glas arrived after a longer absence. "I was first here in 1969, when you weren't even born yet," she said. "At the time, everything was still quite small, and there was less security. It was much more like a private party." 47 years ago, Glas had danced with Rainer Barzel, then the parliamentary leader of the CDU/CSU parliamentary faction.

The first German Press Ball was held in Bonn in 1951 at the Federal House, or Bundeshaus. After a brief relocation to Bad Neuenahr, the event took place in Bonn from 1959 to 1998 before moving to the capital city Berlin in 1999. This is the second year the Hotel Adlon played host to the dancers.