A Tribute to

Walter and Marianne Kaiser

Marianne Kaiser-Kopf

The second Marianne to play a role in the personal and dancing life of Walter Kaiser was Marianne Kopf, a most charming and attractive lady, the ideal partner for him. They got to know and appreciate each other in 1958 and married soon afterwards. With complete dedication they prepared themselves for their first outing at the World Professional Latin American Championship in Berlin in 1960 (21st/22nd May). In the explosive political atmosphere in the isolated Berlin (cold war, the Berlin wall was built in 1961) they immediately succeeded in reaching the semi-final and finishing in 12th position. The "Deutschlandhalle" hosted 10,000 spectators and the floor size was 800 sq. metres. The event took place under the auspices of the Mayor of Berlin, Willy Brandt.

Marianne Kaiser

Ballroom Dancing in the 1960’s

Roland Hill described the current situation concerning Ballroom Dancing in England in the magazine "The World" on 22nd February 1958:

"In the British leisure industry 900 million cinema tickets are sold in a year. The second highest number is found in the dance business (for dance events and competitions): 200 million tickets a year!"

In other words: in one year there were more tickets sold for dance events than for football games. An unbelievable fact in the motherland of football!

The number of spectators at the Open British Championships in Blackpool in those days was also very impressive: 5,000 – 7,000 spectators a day was normal, for the highlights up to 10,000 spectators were present. What an atmosphere!

The Standard of Competitive Dancing in the 1960’s

Modern Ballroom Dancing

"In 1960 the Irvines and Eggleton / Winslade showed dancing at such a high level that it could later be surpassed more or less only by dynamics (e.g. Hurley/Saxton, the Gleaves or the Barrs)" (from the "Dictionary of Dance Sport").

"The Irvines had already, in comparison to their predecessors (Binnick or Krebs), an incredible amount of dynamics…" (from "Modern Dancing from A to Z").

On the homepage of the birthplace of Bill Irvine (Kilsyth) information can be found about Bill and Bobbie Irvine and the standard of dancing in the years when Walter and Marianne Kaiser were competing:

"Following the retirement of Harry Smith-Hampshire and Doreen Casey in 1961, their (Bill and Bobbie Irvine’s) great dancing rivals were Peter Eggleton and Brenda Winslade. This has been described as the golden age of British Professional Ballroom Dancing, reaching standards of technical and artistic brilliance which have seldom, if ever, been surpassed."

Of course, the development went on, but the standard in the 1960’s must already have been very high indeed.

Latin American Dancing

Paso Doble and Samba had been known for quite some time (since approx. 1910, Samba as Maxixe), the Rumba followed in 1930. Until 1960 these three dances had their ups and downs, especially the Rumba that was danced as an additional Modern Ballroom (standard) dance, Tango as an additional Latin American dance. In the so called "Rumba Controversy" there was an almost never ending battle going on between the continental and the British dance teachers and societies: on one side there was the Square Rumba or Rumba-Bolero that came from the U.S.A. (1st step forward), on the other side Pierre Margolie (a Frenchman living in London, usually just called "Pierre") and his partner Doris Lavelle who had developed their own Rumba style (Cuban style, 1st step sideways). At the beginning it was impossible to find an agreement. Therefore, for a short period of time, both basic steps were accepted.

After a while the English dance teachers made an end to the long story and decided for their couples the Cuban Rumba, which was internationally accepted, also because of it’s use in the first edition of the Technique of Latin Dancing by Walter Laird published at the beginning of the 1960’s.

Walter and Marianne Kaiser played quite an important role in the Rumba controversy, were more or less ambassadors for the Cuban style Rumba. Nina Hunt, one of the leading British dance teachers for Latin American Dancing, had taught them the Cuban Rumba. Convinced of the beauty and advantages of the Cuban Rumba, Walter and Marianne Kaiser tried, dancing-wise and verbally, to make even the strongest opponents on the continent change their mind. And they succeeded. Of course, their excellent results both in England and on the continent helped tremendously as well.

The first European Latin American Championships took place: Professionals 1953, Amateurs 1958, the first World’s: Amateurs 1947, Professionals 1960 (from "Dancing Worldwide", 1995).

The Jive was added in 1968 (Professionals), 1976 (Amateurs) (from the "Dictionary of Dance Sport", 1990).

The Peanut Vendor: the first big Rumba-Hit (incl. music)

The first Grand Finals

In 1961 Walter and Marianne Kaiser made their first Grand Final at the World Professional Latin American Championship: 1st/2nd May, London, Hammersmith Palais – 6th place.

From then on they were regular finalists in all Competitions and Championships in which they danced (exception: Professional Ballroom in Blackpool). Their strongest rivals in the Latin American dances were over the years to come: Walter Laird and Lorraine Reynolds, England, Bill and Bobbie Irvine, first South Africa, then England, Robert and Margaret O'Hara, England, i.e. some of the greatest names in Ballroom Dancing ever.

In February 1962 Walter and Marianne Kaiser were runners-up in a world class Professional competition in Oldenburg, Germany. First place went to Bill & Bobbie Irvine.

"Favourite of the amazed spectators was Marianne Kaiser from Zurich. A most charming, graceful and efficient dancer in fabulous dresses, both in the Modern Ballroom (red and silver) and Latin American section (red, black and silver). She had a marvellous reception from the audience." (E. Deengener)

(Original German version: "Erklärter Liebling des staunenden Tribünen-Laien war Marianne Kaiser aus Zürich… Ob bei den Standard-Tänzen in grosser Robe in Rot und Silber oder 'lateinamerikanisch' rot-schwarz-(queck)-silbrig über die Tanzfläche wirbelnd – immer wirkte das zierliche Mädchen gelöst, traumhaft sicher – eben französisch-charmant. Die Tribüne revanchierte sich norddeutsch-händeklatschend und füssetrampelnd…"

Walter and Marianne Kaiser, Switzerland

In May 1962 Walter and Marianne Kaiser had their first great success at the Blackpool Dance Festival. They won the first ever British Professional Latin American Tournament!

The results:
1st Walter and Marianne Kaiser, Switzerland
2nd Ron Smith and Jill Stephens, England
3rd Eric Lashbrooke and Norma Graves, England
4th Peter Eggleton and Brenda Winslade, England

Kit Hallewell wrote about it in his fabulous book "Blackpool my Blackpool": "The final event on Tuesday evening was the new British Professional Latin American Tournament, attracting thirteen entries for its first year... The contest was over only three dances, Cha Cha Cha, Samba, and Paso Doble. If this seems a somewhat peculiar choice of dances, it must be remembered that the great Rumba controversy was still raging. Winners were Walter Kaiser and his wife Marianne from Switzerland, who captivated the crowd, and drew the comment from Sydney Francis, ‘very sound."

Details of the Blackpool Dance Festival 1962

Victory Ceremony 1962

After their great success in Blackpool they went from strength to strength:

23rd/24th August 1962, Venice, Italy, Arena di Sporto, an outdoor event, European Professional Latin American Championship – runners-up! (1st Walter Laird and Lorraine Reynolds, England, 3rd Wolfgang Opitz and Evelyn Hädrich, Germany)

8th. September 1962, Wiesbaden, Germany, European Professional Ballroom Championship – 5th place! (1st Bill & Bobbie Irvine, 2nd Peter Eggleton & Brenda Winslade)

Remarks for the year 1962:

- The World Professional Ballroom Championships 1962 took place on 4th/5th December in Melbourne, Australia. Quite a number of European couples could not take part (long expensive trip, the dancing school at home too long abandoned). Walter and Marianne Kaiser were among these couples. In normal form they would doubtless have done very well.

- European Championships over Nine resp. Ten Dances were only established in 1981.


At the beginning of May the World Professional (and Amateur) Ballroom Championships were held at the Royal Albert Hall in London (3rd – 7th May). And Walter and Marianne Kaiser made the finals in all sections:

World Professional Ballroom – 5th place! (1st Bill and Bobbie Irvine, 2nd Bob Burgess and Doreen Freeman)

World Professional Latin American – 3rd place! (1st Walter Laird and Lorraine Reynolds, 2nd Bill and Bobbie Irvine)

World Professional Nine Dance – 4th place! (1st Bill and Bobbie Irvine, 2nd Bob Burgess and Doreen Freeman, 6th Michael Needham and Monica Dunsford)

World Professional Ballroom Championships 1963

In 1963 the number of participating couples at the British Professional Latin American Tournament had already doubled in comparison with the previous year (from 13 couples in 1962 to 26 couples in 1963). And after having been the only foreign couple in 1962, Walter and Marianne Kaiser were joined by others in 1963: the Bakkens from Norway, the Dresens from Germany, the Masuokas from Japan, Mr. Macdonald / Miss Raaff from South Africa.

The top British couple was Robert and Marguerite O'Hara, the British Professional Latin American Champions.

Nevertheless: into first place, the winners, from Switzerland, Walter und Marianne Kaiser!

The results:
1st Walter and Marianne Kaiser, Switzerland
2nd Robert and Margaret O'Hara, England
3rd Bob Burgess and Doreen Freeman, England
4th Anthony and Valerie Goodyear, England
5th Len Armstrong and Elaine Welch, England
6th Gunther and Heidegard Dresen, Germany

Kit Hallewell: "The British Professional Latin American Tournament provided a second time success for the winners, Walter and Marianne Kaiser, repeating their success for the previous year, but only after a tight struggle with Robert and Margaret O’Hara. Kaisers were first in Samba and Paso, and second in Rumba and Cha Cha Cha, while O’Haras were first in Rumba and Cha Cha Cha, and second in the other two. A perhaps unexpected third were Bob Burgess and Doreen Freeman, fourth Anthony and Valerie Goodyear, fifth Len Armstrong and Elaine Welch, and sixth Gunther and Heidegard Dresen from Germany. This year’s competition was notable for the first impact of Japanese Professional competitors, the Shinodas reaching the semi-final and earning favourable comment from Sydney Francis…"

Line-up Professional Latin American Tournament 1963

from left to right: Marianne and Walter Kaiser, Marguerite and Robert O'Hara,
Doreen Freeman and Bob Burgess, Valerie and Anthony Goodyear

Details of the Blackpool Dance Festival 1963

14th June 1963, Hamburg, European Professional Ballroom Championship – 4th place! (1st Bill & Bobbie Irvine)

In August 1963 another top class event for Professionals took place in Berlin (Funkturm / Radio Station). The Kaiser’s results: Professional Ballroom – 4th place (1st Irvine, 2nd Burgess / Freeman), Latin American – 3rd place (1st Laird, 2nd Irvine), Nine Dances – 2nd place (1st Irvine), but the conditions were dubious: an uneven floor (sort of linoleum) had been installed over an outdoor pool. After the heat of the day the temperature cooled down dramatically during the evenings. Therefore the floor was covered by water of condensation and became partly very slippery. Although the organisers tried to solve the problem in many different ways, quite a number of couples fell. The conditions were irregular, no doubt about it, but the couples started all the same to show their sympathy and solidarity with the isolated people of Berlin.

12th October 1963, Hannover, Germany, European Professional Latin American Championship – runners-up for the second time! (1st Walter Laird and Lorraine Reynolds, 3rd Wolfgang and Evelyn Opitz, 4th Robert and Marguerite O’Hara)

"Walter Laird and Lorraine won the Championship, of course. They were outstanding… their musicality and rhythm is superior to the other couples.

Walter and Marianne Kaiser from Zurich were also very, very good… They were convincing runners-up. I think in Paso Doble they danced much better than the winners." (Carl G.V. Carlsen, Copenhagen, in the German dance magazine "Tanz Illustrierte" No. 133, November 1963)

(Original German version: "Natürlich gewann das englische Paar, Laird-Lorraine, die Meisterschaft. Sie waren überragend, obwohl ich meine, dass sie heute zu auffällig 'für die Galerie’ tanzen. Ihr Tanzen ist mehr Kabarett-Schau als Gesellschaftstanz. Aber ich muss berücksichtigen, dass sie Musik und Rhythmus besser ausdeuten als jedes andere der übrigen Paare.

Walter und Marianne Kaiser aus Zürich sind dagegen wirkliche Gesellschaftstänzer, und sie waren ebenfalls sehr, sehr gut. - Wenn man lateinamerikanisches Tanzen mehr aus diesem Blickwinkel betrachtet, so müssten sie gewinnen. So waren sie sehr sichere zweite Preisträger. Im Paso doble, meine ich, waren sie weit besser als die Sieger.")


15th February, Munich, in the famous German Theatre (Deutsches Theater), Prize of Europe for Professionals (Grosser Preis von Europa), Latin American – identical result: 1st Laird, 2nd Kaiser!

Both couples must have been outstanding. With their contrasting styles they both had a great number of fans. On every outing they produced a sort of "Duel of the Giants". Such positive rivalry is the best that can happen to the dance business. Lucky public and lucky experts who were able to witness these events! And lucky couples to have such strong opposition! This made them work and practice even harder, for sure.

Under the initials "W.B." the editor of the report of the event described the thrill as follows ("Tanz Illustrierte" No 137, March 1964): "I am very much looking forward to the next occasion to see these famous two couples in action again, Laird-Lorraine and the Kaisers. While dressing up I’m going to ask myself the question: who is going to win this time?"

In the same article Carl-Ernst Riebeling wrote about the fact, that in those days the top couples in the Professional field came from England (many couples), Germany (some couples), the Netherlands (Wim Voeten and Jeanne Assman) and Switzerland (the Kaisers).

2nd/3rd May 1964, Berlin, Deutschlandhalle:

World Professional Ballroom Championship – 6th place! (1st Bill and Bobbie Irvine, 2nd Peter Eggleton and Brenda Winslade)

World Professional Latin American Championship – 3rd place! (1st Walter Laird and Lorraine Reynolds, 2nd Bill and Bobbie Irvine)

According to the reports 20,000 spectators witnessed these very well organised World Championships during these two days. The expected sensation didn’t take place (the Kaisers perhaps taking first place). Walter Laird and Lorraine must have had a very good night indeed and very clearly deserved to win. The Kaisers had, in contrast to the winners, a very bad night. The highlights of their career were still to come.

Walter Laird and Lorraine announced their retirement at the end of the World Championship. A retirement that was very much regretted by all.

Open British Professional Latin American Champions 1964!

Only three days later this year (6th May 1964) Walter and Marianne Kaiser at the Blackpool Dance Festival celebrated one of their greatest successes, perhaps the greatest success a ballroom couple can achieve:

They became the first ever Open British Professional Latin American Champions!!!

Kit Hallewell: "The Latin American events introduced in 1961 had proved so popular, and so great had been the increase in interest in Latin American dancing, that by 1964 it was decided to promote the events to the status of championships and the British Amateur and Professional Latin American Championships were launched…

The British Professional Latin American Championships created tremendous atmosphere, with three German entries, two Japanese, and the Kaisers from Switzerland trying to repeat in this first Championship their two successes in the Professional Tournament, and again being challenged by the O’Haras…

The final six actually finished: first Walter and Marianne Kaiser with first in Samba and Cha Cha Cha, second in Paso Doble, and third in Rumba, second were Robert and Margaret O’Hara with first in Rumba and Paso Doble, but third in Samba and Cha Cha Cha, third were Bill and Bobbie Irvine with third in Paso and second in the other three. Anthony and Valerie Goodyear were fourth, Bob Burgess and Doreen Freeman were fifth, and the Japanese Shinodas sixth, Sydney Francis made a mild complaint against 'gimmicky' interpretations."

The Results:
1st Walter and Marianne Kaiser, Switzerland

2nd Robert and Margaret O'Hara, England
3rd Bill and Bobbie Irvine, England
4th Anthony and Valerie Goodyear, England
5th Bob Burgess and Doreen Freeman, England
6th Manabu and Matsuko Shinoda, Japan

Listen to the unique Blackpool atmosphere:

That's how it could have sounded in 1964 when Walter and Marianne Kaiser
won the first ever Open British Professional Latin American Championship:

2 minutes audio-file (935 kb): original sound from the Professional Latin American Championship 1990

Please don't forget to turn on the loudspeakers

More about the Blackpool Dance Festival 1964 (Professional Latin and Ballroom)

The summary of the Blackpool Years of Walter and Marianne Kaiser:

Walter and Marianne Kaiser at the Blackpool Dance Festival: 1962 - 1964

There can be no doubt about it that Walter and Marianne Kaiser have participated a great deal in the popularity of the Latin American dances (together of course with the other top couples of this period). The immediate consequence for Blackpool was the promotion of the former British Latin American Tournaments to the status of Championships.

Walter and Marianne Kaiser were three years in succession the winners of the Latin American section at the Blackpool Dance Festival. The highlight was their fabulous and historic win 1964, becoming the first ever Open British Professional Latin American Champions!

Remarks for the year 1964:

- From 1964–70 no 9- resp. 10-Dance World Championships were held (decision ICBD 1963).

- Nothing is known about the European Professional Latin American Championship 1964.

- Walter & Marianne Kaiser were unable to participate in the European Professional Ballroom Championship 1964 (date collision).

The Champions: Walter and Marianne Kaiser

back home next