Walter Kaiser, the apprentice in the cake shop, is busy with the whisk. Soon the icing for the wedding-cake will be ready.
The candied violets, the little bride and the bridegroom in black and white, the highlights of the decoration, are ready to be put on top of the icing. Soon the wedding guests will admire the sweet piece of art, and a happy bride will cut it with the help of the bridegroom in the flashlights of the photographers…
Walter is suddenly dreaming. A sunray like a spotlight is illuminating the bride and bridegroom on the cake. Can it be that the tiny gentleman in black twinkles and winks? And that the graceful little lady in white net-lace is responding by making a surprising spin, ending with a deep curtsy? He, let me name him Walter, delicately kisses her hand, makes an elegant bow, and they are ready to dance a Waltz on top of the cake, their winged feet making little traces on the icing like on freshly fallen snow. He takes his gracious lady, let me name her Marianne, round the waist and they jump down like feathers from the round cake on to the table. “Make way for us to dance! Go away all you bowls and whisks, we need space for our Waltz!” How they dance, turn around and swing, enjoying every movement, enjoying the freedom of the dance floor, enjoying the harmony, the feelings, the unison in rhythm and music, melting into one another…!
“Walter! Walter! What are you doing? Stop dreaming! Is it ready, the wedding-cake?” Back to reality! Walter sighs deeply, puts the little bride delicately beside the bridegroom on top of the iced cake and finishes the decoration with candied violets. Ready it is, the sweet Hollywood-Cake-Dance-Dream. Gone are the spots, the sunbeams, the astonished public and the dream of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Nobody is clapping, neither to the dance couple, which is now standing there, frozen, nor to Walter, the inventor of the pretty dream, who would rather wear a tailsuit and a top-hat instead of the apron, dusty with flour, who would rather have his hair elegantly done instead of having the tips of hair full of icing over the brows. Like his hero he would disappear behind the curtain with his pretty and gracious lady after the making of the dance film with the assurance that thousands and thousands of dance-loving people would soon assault the ticket-windows to get to the film and have happy hours with lovely dreams, forgeting for a while the everyday life.
Walter Kaiser was supposed to take over the cake shop of his father in the little and pleasant town of Murten in Switzerland after having finished his apprenticeship in Neuchatel. To calm his burning dancefever he had tap dance lessons.
“Would you like some more pasta?” The question tears me away from my dreams. Here I am, back again! I can hardly believe it: Michael and I find ourselves at Erika and Waldemar Santi's home! Do you want to know how we got here?On 19th May 2004 Michael wrote:
To say that it took only a few days to prepare the tribute to Walter and Marianne Kaiser would be a big understatement. As expected it was thrilling to work on it. I went through more than 300 dance magazines and books. Evelyne has copied the corresponding articles…
Triple Professional Blackpool winners, finalists in 5 European and 7 World Professional Championships, excellent ambassadors for the Swiss competitive dance scene – these are just a few more facts about the most successful Swiss ballroom dancing couple of all times - Walter and Marianne Kaiser! This year they celebrate the 40th anniversary of their splendid success at the Blackpool Dance Festival - British Professional Latin American Champions 1964 - an occasion to look back on their most impressive career.
That’s only the beginning of the tribute (17 pages), it should grow and grow and become more and more voluminous.
I send you the extremely diligent work of the Scherers. I hope, Boris will soon take your documents to Zurich, to allow the Scherers to complete their researches. The homepage concerning you and Marianne is really fantastic. I believe you would better answer Michael’s questions personally.Sincerely,
"…And now comes the great surprise! In this very moment the phone rings and Walter Kaiser is speaking!!! (telepathy!). He will come for four days to Zurich, with all the needed documents and he is willing to give an interview. Dear Scherers, to realize this unique opportunity is a must!!! Please tell us immediately how your dispositions are, so that I can organize the rest.
Great! We are looking forward impatiently! Can you please give a short description of the way to your home? Thank you very much.
The meeting will definitely take place on Thursday, 27th May at about 12.30 pm, for lunch and a following discussion about the history of dance and an interview with Walter Kaiser. We are very much looking forward to this very interesting event.Sincerely,
And here we are at the Santis! The lunch would have been reason enough to travel to them. That’s what we always wanted: to have a long talk with the Santis, with enough time to speak, to philosophise, to exchange old memories and to get to know them better.
But, at the same table there is also sitting: Walter Kaiser! Exactly, the one who had to learn to become a good confectioner, the one who, inspite of his father’s will, just had one idea in mind: to become a good dancer, or why not a very successful dancer, following the example of the terrific dancers he was watching in the cinema. Walter who went to London, to learn how to dance, who practised so well with his wife Marianne that they became World Champions in the latin-american dances in 1965 and therefore realized one part of Walter’s dreams.
When we were in London, many years ago, for competitions and for dance tutorials, we often heard about Walter and Marianne Kaiser, and we often were asked: How are they? What are they doing? People really had a crush on them! We never were able to satisfy their curiosity, because in Switzerland nobody was speaking to us about the Kaisers. We just knew that Walter Kaiser had bought an estate in Southern France and that he had retired from competition dancing. The dance-school Kaiser was and is still very well-known…
This made Michael curious and he searched in all the books we had and found out that exactly 40 years ago, in 1964, a Swiss professional couple had won the latin-american Championship in Blackpool, that this couple from Switzerland had taken over the reign in the field of the latin-american dancers, the one and only Blackpool-Winner and World- and European Champions from Switzerland: Walter and Marianne Kaiser! This anniversary was worth a tribute, wasn’t it? This had to be published! This had to be known!
We were not able to find all the answers to all our questions in the books. So we asked Trudi Schmucki for help. She had a lot to tell us. Trudi, as well as Erika and Valdemaro (former pupils and good friends of Walter Kaiser), gave us many documents about those times.
„Who would like some more salad?“ Erika is the unfortunate hostess whom we hardly notice, in spite of her culinary art. “Help yourself to what you like! There is plenty of all!” Quickly I swap ballpoint and fork, a bit annoyed about not being able to note all interesting remarks of Walter Kaiser. Originally we wanted to begin with the interview after the meal, everything being planned carefully by Michael, with a microphone and a long list of questions. The sympathetic person sitting opposite us with the wild hair and his warmhearted eyes has already captivated us as he came in like a blast of wind and we immediately grew fond of him. And now the old memories bubble out of him! Although we had never met him before we are now able to visualise all he is telling us, because we know many of the names he mentions and because he carries us off to places we already visited years ago: Hammersmith Palais, Royal Albert Hall, Blackpool…
“Who would like an espresso now? Or would you rather have something else?” Walter hesitates a little at the sight of Michael’s microphone. But soon the recording is forgotten. We see young Walter knocking at Massmunster's door in Zurich to get an education as a dancer, we see how he is refused (not talented enough!), we see how he walks round the block of houses to enter again, making a new effort to convince the dance teacher that he really wants to become a dancer, anyhow.
(At the theatre in Zurich they didn’t want to take him either, being to old for ballet and not being talented enough for anything else! - according to the people there, at the time.)
The memories of the stony way from Zurich to London, from a dance teacher's assistant who was eager for knowledge to the taxi-dancer who had to earn some money to pay for the dance lessons and the training sessions, to the dance teacher who knew the technique books by heart and to the competition dancer. It sounded like a fairy-tale and made his and our eyes sparkle.
Valdemaro is so right: Walter has got the talents of an oriental story-teller. We all forget everything around us, We travel with Walter to London, where Guy Howard feels that there is a promising young man with possibly a great future, he takes care of him and opens all possible doors for him. Walter takes us to the Royal Albert Hall, to important studios where all the well-known teachers were working and still are, he takes us to Zurich, to the schools he opened and to different competitions in England and Germany. Now we know a lot, but we want to know much more.
“Do you like my ice cream? It is home-made!” “We like it very much! Thank you, Erika. How was it, Walter, when you became the Champion of the World? How did it change your life?” Michael consults the catalogue of questions which snakes its way through Walter's life, lining up all events like pearls on a string. Walter stands up, totally lost in memories. He is dancing with an invisible partner listening to an inner melody. We are realizing now how long we were sitting around the table listening intensely. We all know that fairy tailes can become true. We hear about the great luck it is to be invited as the World Champion, to give lessons, demonstrations and lectures, to be invited to congresses, to judge great competitions, with everybody wanting to pay tribute to you, to know and invite you while spreading out a purple carpet under your feet, especially in Germany. The dance school in Zurich was swamped with registrations of new pupils. Walter was now living from dancing (about thirty competitions per year and uncounted demonstrations…).
This ascent, this tremendous success, the intense work may weld together and strengthen a couple, or it may do the exact opposite: the relation can break. This happened unfortunately with the Kaisers. After a few years of dancing they divorced. They looked back on great successes, which allowed Marianne and Walter Kaiser to win, to defeat the best of the best couples (even the “dance legends” Bill and Bobbie Irvine M.B.E.). Up to this day the people who admired Walter and Mariannes dancing are still fond of the musicality, the expressiveness, the easy dancing, the flow of movements and the harmony they showed to the enchanted public. They could have been at the top for a long time.
After having a drink of water Walter tells us about his new life, the life in Southern France. The big dancing-emperor (Tanz-Kaiser in German) who once ruled the world, to whom the public hailed, who invited the people watching the TV-Programme “May I ?” to dance at home and who organised Professional European Championships, is now telling us about the peaceful rural way of life in France and about the dances he learned in his new home country. There the social dancers showed him a new way of dancing, without “The Book”, dancing happily without adjudicators, without headlines in the newspapers, gold medals and titles. “Nowhere is the Paso Doble danced as much as in Southern France!” Walter tells us, “and in the Argentine Tango each dancer tries to eliminate the opposing male dancers in order to be able to get the best lady-dancers. Competitions need no judges here.”
For a few years now Walter has intensively studied the Argentine Tango. While he is talking enthusiastically about Taking and Giving between partners, about Improvising and Dancing out of the heart, from Dancing with and to the Music, which is leading us to Movements and Feelings, we know that his feet are burning to return home as quickly as possible to be able to make new dance experiments and combinations of steps in his own dance hall with Erika Hansen. It is fascinating: sitting opposite us there is someone who lives to dance. Attention please: His passion is extremely contagious! We are sure that his “holiday-paradise in Southern France” is in reality a “dance-paradise”. Walter has at his disposal an enormous knowledge. Like an alchemist he has examined, mixed, purified, filtered, analysed, tested the ingredients of the Dancing, he worked his way to the innermost of the matter, and yet has not arrived at the end of his researches. How much he could tell the world!
And again the story-teller sets up a new scenery, making us now see wide landscapes with enchanting fragrances and we hear snatches of melodies in the room, we hear bleating sheep, a friendly barking dog and the cackling hens. We feel the warm sunbeams floating over the wineyards round Moulézan between Alès and Nîmes. Walter is living in MAS VINSON since 1981, in one of three houses surrounded by parks with old trees and meadows, with a lot of romantic little places to rest, with a summer-house and barbecues, with a swimming pool and a playground.
We all listen with great respect, because we all have a lot to learn and to comprehend, from a man who repeats many times that he comes from a simple background… He is a very wise man, never imposing himself, a gentleman who gives his listeners the feeling of being important, a man who doesn’t want to go back in time, and who feels that there are so many important and beautiful things to be discovered and to learn even if the hair grows grey and the body doesn’t allow as much as before. It doesn’t seem to bother the philosopher Walter.
As quickly as the decades in Walters life passed through our minds, as quickly passed the afternoon. “Come and see me in Southern France!” and off he went, our new friend…
Honestly, I am glad that I didn’t have to drive back home myself. I didn’t realize anything, neither the motorway nor the traffic. I woke up after having dreamt a wonderful dream with open eyes at home. We understood what we had experienced when we opened the bags full of photos, diplomas, newspaper articles that Walter has lent to us in trust. We couldn’t believe our eyes! We are grateful for the trust Walter has in us, but also to Erika and Valdemaro who gave us the chance to meet him.
In the early morning hours we still sat before our TV screen watching the world famous dancers Walter and Marianne Kaiser on the borrowed video. For the first time we could see and admire Walter's quick, rhythmical feet, his slim and elegant appearance, Marianne’s grace, her long legs and beautiful arms, the harmonious movements of the two dancers. The charm that came from the couple enchanted the public and impressed the adjudicators from all countries.
“The material of the films is matchless, many sequences are from Blackpool! Many well known couples and some of our teachers (Bob Burgess, Doreen Freeman, Dennis Udell, Bill und Bobbie Irvine). Well known faces (Harry Smith-Hampshire, Opitz, Trautz etc.). And many photos of Walter and Marianne. Unfortunately some of the film material is of bad quality…”Every fairy tale comes to an end. What we experienced here was totally different.
Walter has caused an enormous whirl in our heads and hearts. He can’t imagine what he has done! Since we are in touch with him we sit at our computers with an increasing and new motivation and energy. Photos are scanned, texts are copied or written, memories are sorted out, new thoughts and ideas, new questions appear, new forces are mobilised, new projects come into being and are haunting us day and night. We want to know everything about the time when Walter was reigning. It is a thrilling expedition, and we would like to take many readers with us.
Erika and I are sitting in the evening sun in the “Midi” of France and I am telling her about the beautiful hours we passed together in Switzerland. Time passed so quickly, as quickly as the TGV-train. It was thrilling and exciting and I felt very good in your company.Thank you very much again and love from