A Tribute to

Walter and Marianne Kaiser

Open British Professional Latin American Champions 1964
World and European Professional Latin American Champions 1965

Introduction Marianne Wolff 1950 Marianne Kaiser-Kopf 1958 Marianne Kaiser-Bingel 1968
Some Results 1952-67 The Fascination of the Blackpool Dance Festival Blackpool Report 1962-64
Photos Videos About Whisks and Sceptres - Our first Meeting with Walter Kaiser Mas Vinson

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 to their most impressive career.

"They were very, very good!" - "I think in the Paso Doble they danced much better than the winners (Walter Laird and Lorraine Reynolds)" – "marvellous" - "They captivated the crowd" - "very sound" – "They were far better than the Irvines" - "They created tremendous atmosphere", these are just a few statements from the past written about Walter and Marianne Kaiser.

Walter and Marianne Kaiser

Switzerland has had quite a number of very successful couples, most of them being finalists in major Championships over the last decades. In the Amateur field: Albert and Agnes Schmucki (in the 1930’s and ‘40’s), Waldemar and Erika Santi (in the 1960’s, Latin American), Rudolf and Rita Baumann (in the 1960’s, Modern Ballroom, Rudolf Baumann, President of the IDSF), Viktor Berger and Daniela Dietrich (in the 1970’s and ‘80’s, Latin American), Nicole Hansen with various partners (in the 1990’s, Latin American, Nicole Hansen later married Donnie Burns), etc. In the Professional field: Albert and Trudi Schmucki (in the 1950’s, Latin American), Hubert and Irene Scharmer (in the 1970’s, Modern Ballroom and Latin American), etc.

The most successful Swiss dancers ever were Walter and Marianne Kaiser in the 1960’s!

The Beginning of a great Career

Walter Kaiser grew up in Murten near Berne, in a most picturesque part of Switzerland, at the shore of a beautiful lake and with a view of the Alps. His father owned a cake shop and therefore Walter Kaiser became first of all a pastry cook as he was to take over the father’s shop later. In his spare time Walter Kaiser went quite often to the movies, where many films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and many other great dancers were shown. Walter Kaiser was fascinated by the dancing and the music and he wanted to become a stage dancer.

Very much to the annoyance of his father he left for Zurich after the apprenticeship. Before he had had tutorials in tap dancing, but he was already too old for ballet. Singing, tap dancing, acting would be OK, but not ballet. Disappointed he searched for other solutions and found them in ballroom dancing. After intensive studies he passed his professional exam in 1950.

In the same year he got to know Marianne Wolff, his first dancing partner.

Walter Kaiser (1950)

In 1951/52 Guy Howard gave lectures at the congress of the Swiss Official Board, the body of the Swiss Professional Dance Teachers (now named "swissdance"). Thrilled by Guy Howard’s lectures they went for a three week’s stay to London where Guy Howard was teaching at the Alex Moore Studio.

At the beginning of the 1950’s Walter Kaiser and Marianne Wolff were one of the very few foreign couples in England. Apart from them there were just a few Germans, Dutch, the first Japanese, all Professionals.

Walter Kaiser and Marianne Wolff (1952/53)

Guy Howard was like a father to Walter Kaiser. He showed him everything, introduced him, encouraged him. He said to Walter: "If you could come to London for 6 months you could become a good dancer". In actual fact Walter Kaiser stayed there in the years to come for more than two and a half years (with breaks in between).

As Marianne Wolff was not yet a professional dance teacher, she got the money for her education from her mother, who was herself fascinated by the dancing. In the months to come Walter Kaiser was working in Switzerland and Marianne Wolff was studying with Alex Moore in London. Walter Kaiser regularly went to see her. To save money he even went once on his Vespa (a small Italian motorbike) from Zurich to London.

In England Walter Kaiser saw George Elliot dance, one of the best dancers of this time. Walter Kaiser was fascinated by George Elliot’s Foxtrot - "how does he achieve such perfection? – and the Waltz, marvellous!"

Guy Howard took Walter Kaiser to the Palladium, one of the most famous ballrooms in London at the time. Bobbie Henderson was dancing there, another of these great dancers with a most natural style and much feeling. Walter Kaiser: "Bob was a wonderful dancer, I admired very much his soft approach to the steps". It was very difficult to get lessons with Bobbie Henderson, he was sometimes late and sometimes never turned up.

Back in Switzerland Walter Kaiser and Marianne Wolff danced their first competition together, the Swiss Professional Ballroom Championship (Modern Ballroom) and became Swiss Professional Ballroom Champions 1952 (runners-up were Albert and Trudi Schmucki).

Swiss Professional Ballroom Champions 1952

In April 1954 the English dance magazine "The Dancing Times" wrote about Walter Kaiser and Marianne Wolff: "...a charming young couple, Professional Champions of Switzerland 1952, together for two and a half years, in London coaching under Bobbie Henderson."

Walter Kaiser and Marianne Wolff have danced many competitions and championships both at home and abroad, e.g. in Belgium, England and Italy. In the programme of the “Star Balls and Ballroom Championships" at the Empress Hall in London (Monday, 26th April 1954) many interesting things could be found:

On page 3 one was informed that there was dancing in the Hammersmith Palais in London twice a day, at 3 p.m. and 7.30 p.m., to live-music!

Every day Competitions were held in London, sometimes already in the afternoon, but mostly in the evening. Every Ballroom had his orchestra. All Competitions were organised by Mecca Dancing. They had a chain of 60 Ballrooms spread over England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

At the Star Ball 1954 seventy-five Professional couples took part. Apart from the English couples there were 3 couples from the Netherlands, 2 couples from Australia, 1 couple each from France, Ireland and South Africa (Bill Irvine and Ruby Johnson) and of course Walter Kaiser and Marianne Wolff from Switzerland. Couples with business or residence within 20 miles of Marble Arch were required to compete at heats in London Halls to qualify for the first round of the semi-finals.

Many famous names could be found under the participants: Sonny Binnick and Sally Brock, Desmond Ellison and Maisie Harrison, Henry Kingston and Joy Tolhurst, Walter Laird and Ande Lyons, Harry Smith-Hampshire and Doreen Casey, Benny Tolmeyer and Sylvia Sylve, etc.

There was a distinction between "Semi Finals – first round" (the top 48) and "Semi Finals – second round" (the top 24). Then came the Final (today the Semi Final = the top 12), followed by the "Grand Final" (today the Final = the top 6).

In the Amateur field Michael Houseman and Valerie Waite, Dennis Udell and Joyce Brampton, Michael Needham and June Ashby, Peter Eggleton and Joyce Haynes and other dancers who later became very well known Professionals.

In the Star Junior competition: Anthony Hurley.

The Star Ballroom Championships (1950's)

Amongst the adjudicators some of the most famous names ever in the dance business appeared: Josephine Bradley, Alex Moore, Phyllis Haylor, Charles Thiebault, Ida Ilett (the organizer of the famous Blackpool Dance Festival before Gill MacKenzie), Wally Fryer, Henry Jacques, P. Pierre (Latin American legend), Len Scrivener, Eric Hancox.

Three orchestras had been engaged: Joe Loss, Victor Silvester, Ken Mackintosh.

The programme stated:

"The following music will be played throughout the competitions up to the Grand Finals of The Star Championships:

Waltz and Foxtrot: 2 choruses
Tango: 2 choruses (or 64 bars)
Quickstep: 3 choruses

Grand Finals:
Waltz, Foxtrot and Tango: 2 1/2 choruses
Quickstep: 4 choruses"

There was a famous show called "The Tribute to the Waltz". Phyllis Haylor had the idea. Part 1 was danced by ballet dancers of the Royal Opera House Covent, part 2 by Victor Barrett and Doreen Freeman, Len Scrivener and Nellie Duggan, Eric Hancox and Betty Wych, Charles Thiebault and Doreen Beahan, part 3 by 8 other top Professional couples (including Len Colyer and Dorice Brace, Alf Davies and Julie Reaby, Henry Kingston and Joy Tolhurst, Benny Tolmeyer and Sylvia Sylve), part 4 by an incredible number of a further 40 Professional couples (including Desmond Ellison and Maisie Harrison, Walter Laird and Ande Lyons, Jimmy and Olive Cullip, Eddie and Muriel Noyce, John Irvine and Topsy Goodall, Frank and Peggy Spencer)!

What a dance culture!

Walter Kaiser and Marianne Wolff separated soon afterwards. In 1955 Walter Kaiser became first the manager of a dancing school, then it’s proprietor in 1958. He passed his Fellowship examination (teacher: Eric Hancox) and was looking for a new partner.

Walter Kaiser and Marianne Wolff (1952/53)

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