Like many other Western customs, balls were brought to Russia by Peter the Great. In 1718, by special decree, he founded the so-called 'assemblies,' which became the prototype of aristocratic balls.
However, people were not eagerly queueing up to attend these new balls. Many boyars thought that these parties were rather vulgar, and that forced participation in dancing alongside such liberal indulgence in wine was a serious threat to one's health. Nevertheless, nobles gradually acquired a taste for it, and Peter himself, trying to Europeanize his court, set the example. He and his wife Catherine were excellent dancers.
At the beginning, only wind orchestras played at assemblies, and they did not differ between dances. Eventually, string orchestras became more popular, and dancing trends changed. For example, the minuet was replaced by the polonaise. In the 18th century, these dances usually began quite early, at four or five in the afternoon, and by 10 o'clock, guests had already started to leave.