A Tribute to

Walter and Marianne Kaiser

The Time after

Walter Kaiser had a comeback in 1967 with another partner, Margot Eckert, one of his assistants. They had two more very good results, finishing in runner-up position at the “Prize of Europe” for Professionals in Munich (1st Siegfried and Anneliese Krehn, 3rd the Westleys) and making once again the Grand Final in Blackpool at the Open British Professional Latin American Championship. But the fire of the previous years had gone out and Walter Kaiser retired soon after…

More about the Blackpool Dance Festival 1967 (Professional Latin and Ballroom)

Walter Kaiser and Margot Eckert

Walter Kaiser – A shining Example of a Professional

The fire had gone out for competing, but not so for the many other activities with which Walter Kaiser was involved in the dance business. He, his partners and his team at all times showed a rare dedication for everything they were doing: practising, dancing, lecturing, teaching, for the TV-classes, in his great many activities for the Swiss Professional and Amateur Dance Federations, as a coach, as a judge, as a lecturer, as organizers of many marvellous events and championships, as a presenter, etc.

It is not at all an overstatement to speak of Walter Kaiser as a shining example of a Professional. He was and still is a credit to the dancing world, and the national and international dance scene owes him an enormous amount!

Walter und Marianne Kaiser-Bingel

The third Marianne and second wife of Walter Kaiser was Marianne Kaiser-Bingel, a former successful Swiss Amateur dancer (together with Albert Salzmann). Before Walter and Marianne Kaiser-Bingel got married in 1969, she went to London to become a Professional. Afterwards she travelled around the world on a cruise liner as a dance teacher and animator, a thrilling experience many Professional dancers were able to undertake. After her return to Switzerland and the marriage they both continued working with great enthusiasm for their dancing school and the national and international dance scene.

Albert Salzmann and Marianne Kaiser-Bingel

Apart from many Swiss Championships arranged by Walter Kaiser and his team the highlights of the international events he organised were without doubt the

European Professional Latin American Championship in 1969
and the
European Professional Ballroom Championship in 1971.

Both Championships took place in Zurich (Kongresshaus/House of Congress) and the response was overwhelming:

"Congratulations on this fabulous event! … The organisation and the hosting of the couples were first class!" (Tanz Illustrierte July 1969)

"An outstanding organisation… televised in twelve countries (Eurovision)… excellent orchestra… exhibition in the Latin American Dances by Walter Laird and Lorraine… perfect presentation by the speaker Walter Kaiser…" (Tanz Illustrierte July 1971)

The Kaiser Ball 1975

The traditional Kaiser Ball was and still is one of the most famous balls not only in Switzerland but in the whole of Central Europe. The dimensions of the Kaiser Ball 1975 surpassed everything we have ever heard of concerning a great ball:

The ball took place again in the "Kongresshaus" Zurich. Of course, one expected a good orchestra, shows and entertainment at such a famous ball organised by an even more famous dance school. What Walter Kaiser and his team offered was however hardly believable:

- 6 different orchestras / bands
- dancing in 5 different halls / places
- all sorts of music to dance to
- shows with Toni Vescoli etc. (Toni Vescoli was one of the best entertainers and singers in Switzerland at the time)

Max Greger and his Big Band (18 musicians) played in the huge concert hall, the "Big Town Set" played modern dance music in the foyer of the concert hall (incl. disco with changing programmes: Modern Ballroom and Latin American music), the "Black Bottom Stompers" (Dixieland) and the "Los Reyes Paraguayos" (Latin American music) played in the smaller concert hall, the "Duo Jacky" (the "Rock’n’Roll Bombers" playing jives and rock’n’roll) played in the chamber music hall (incl. disco) and the "Engstringer Bauernmusik" (18 musicians again) played Swiss folk music (polkas, landlers, marches and waltzes) at the "Kronenbourg Bier-Keller" ("Kronenbourg Beer-Cellar"). To be able to find all these places on different floors there was a map included in the programme. The entrance fees were very modest indeed: SFr. 20.00 - 35.00 (= approx. £ 9.00 – 15.50 / $ 16.00 – 28.50 / Euro 13.00 – 23.00).

As the Kaiser Dance School consisted of 2 schools in Zurich and several branches e.g. in Solothurn an extra train had been organised for the pupils of Solothurn (approx. 60 miles / 90 km away from Zurich) for the incoming as well as for the return journey!

What dimensions, what variety and what lucky guests!

The Kaiser Team in action at one of their great Balls in the 1970's

Walter Kaiser as an Adjudicator

Walter Kaiser was a highly respected adjudicator and has judged numerous competitions and International Championships both at home and abroad, already in the 1950’s and at the beginning of the 1960’s but mainly around 1970. From 1969-75 he was judging every year one or more of the major Professional Championships, be it the World or the European Professional Championships. As a matter of fact, in 1972 he had been engaged to judge all World and European Professional Championships held that year (European Championships: Ballroom and Latin American; World Championships: Ballroom, Latin American and 10-Dance).

World Professional Ballroom Championships 1972 in London

A great honour for Walter Kaiser was the invitation to judge the traditional Team Match at the Open British Championships in Blackpool 1969.

Kit Hallewell: "This year's Saturday evening, 1969, featured a four-cornered Professional Team Match between Japan, West Germany, the United States, and Great Britain over Waltz... (all dances), three couples making up each team, and with Walter Kaiser as solo judge…" (from "Blackpool my Blackpool")

Blackpool Team Match 1969

The British Team: Mr. E. Hancox (Capt.), Mr. A. Hurley, Miss F. Saxton, Mr. M. Needham, Miss M. Dunsford, Mr. J. Westley, Mrs. B. Westley.

The German Team: Mr. P.H. Eichhorn (Capt.), Mr. R. Trautz, Mrs. M. Trautz, Mr. W. Opitz, Mrs. E. Opitz-Hadrich, Mr. B. Giebel, Mrs. B. Giebel.

The Japanese Team: Mr. K. Fujimura (Capt.), Mr. M. Shinoda, Mrs. M. Shinoda, Mr. Y. Saino, Mrs. Y. Saino, Mr. T. Kojima, Mrs. S. Kojima.

The U.S.A. Team: Mr. J. McGregor (Capt.), Mr. J. Jenkins, Mrs. N. Jenkins, Mr. L. Silvers, Mrs. B. Silvers, Mr. J. Donaghey, Mrs. J. Donaghey.

The published marks from Walter Kaiser at various Championships left no doubt whatever that he was judging strictly on the performance of the couples on the day. And if the reigning Champion didn’t deserve to win Walter Kaiser didn’t hesitate to show it with his marks. In addition to this he judged, as it should be, every dance separately. It is very rare that a couple is equally strong in all dances. Walter Kaiser, like many of his fellow judges, took this into consideration.

Walter Kaiser’s new Life

In 1977 Walter and Marianne Kaiser-Bingel divorced. Walter Kaiser retired more and more from his dance schools. He bought a country-house in the southern part of France and married again. The son of Walter and Nora Kaiser grew up in France, until he and his mother returned to Switzerland in 1997.

Since 1999 Walter Kaiser is living together with Erika Hansen (former and undefeated 9 times Swiss Amateur Ballroom Champion with Peter Hansen, 1973-82, the mother of Nicole Hansen, herself many times Swiss Amateur Latin American Champion with various partners and since 1999 married to Donnie Burns).

The Dancing goes on

Although Walter Kaiser has had quite a few crisis in his personal and dancing life, he never ever really turned his back on dancing. In the 1980’s and ‘90’s he concentrated on the popular dances from Southern France, gave lectures on e.g. the Paso Doble at the congress of the Swiss Official Board (the Swiss Professional Dance Teachers Association, now named "swissdance") and travelled to Argentina to concentrate even more on the Argentine Tango, his actual favourite dance.

In the meantime the estate of Walter Kaiser, "Mas Vinson" in Moulézan (approx. 30 km north west of Nimes), has become a popular place to travel to, for dance enthusiasts as well as for holiday fans. On the estate of Walter Kaiser various apartments suitable for 4-6 persons in various buildings can be hired (a total of 24 persons can be accommodated). There is a pool and a small dance hall. There are also sheep, chicken, a horse and a donkey, and a watchdog, of course.

Link to Walter Kaiser

What has become of Walter Kaiser’s former Partners?

Marianne Wolff, the first partner of Walter Kaiser, married, had children and died two years ago.

Marianne Kaiser-Kopf, the World Champion, completely retired from dancing, married again and lives with her family in the U.S.A.

Margot Eckert, the last dance partner of Walter Kaiser, also married and moved to America, where she has taught very successfully Professionals, and students at universities.

Marianne Kaiser-Bingel continues teaching at the Kaiser Dance School in Zurich with the same enthusiasm as before. The famous Kaiser-Ball still exists. In 1988 she took over the Kaiser Dance School.

The Effects of Walter and Marianne Kaiser
during their active Time and afterwards

Numerous have been the admirers of Walter and Marianne Kaiser during their active time and afterwards. Representing many others Eugen Fritz and Ute Streicher shall be quoted: "At this time of our career we aimed for the style that Eugen Fritz had so much admired in the great dancer Marianne Kaiser, who has had so much personality, so much exclusiveness." (from "Dancing in Germany", page 241)

(Original German text: "Wir strebten jetzt einen Stil an, bei dem durch die persönliche Eigenart auch jener Hauch von Exklusivität zu spüren sein sollte, den Eugen bei der grossen Tänzerin Marianne Kaiser so bewundernswert gefunden hatte.")

The Booming of the Swiss Dance Scene

A successful and sympathetic couple is the best ambassador for an art or a sport both at home and abroad. Walter and Marianne Kaiser were much beyond this. They were great personalities, enthusiasts, coaches, organisers, etc. and both promoters and supporters of the Professional and Amateur Dance Scene of Switzerland. As a result the social as well as the competitive dance scene in Switzerland boomed and many promising couples started to compete. Lucky Switzerland!

"Fear" in England

After the great successes of Walter and Marianne Kaiser in the years 1964 and 65 and additional final placings of non-British couples in major championships Phyllis Haylor, one of the greatest ladies in British Ballroom Dancing (died 1981), wrote an interesting article with the heading: "Is our supremacy ending? - A clear, cool look at the International Scene in 1966":

"...Whereas a few years ago isolated couples from Holland, Denmark and Switzerland were knocking tentatively at the door, now it is Germany that presents the most formidable challenge..." (from "The World of Phyllis Haylor and Ballroom Dancing").

(Holland = Wim Voeten and Jeanne Assmann (Professionals), Denmark = various Amateur couples, Switzerland = Walter and Marianne Kaiser (Professionals)

Bill und Bobbie Irvine

Bill and Bobbie Irvine have mentioned some of the Championships they danced in together with Walter and Marianne Kaiser in their autobiography "The Dancing Years".

"1963: ... Then came the big competitions, starting in April with the Star / U.K. at the Lyceum. That was on the 8th... Then on the 22nd the Star Nine-Dance was held... The World's Championships followed on the 7th May: we won the Ballroom title, came second to Marianne and Walter Kaiser of Switzerland in the Latin, and thus took the overall World's title" - page 108.

"Blackpool 1964: We had also entered for the Latin-American title in Blackpool... But we came second in that to the Kaisers of Switzerland" - page 129.

1965, Embassy Ball, London: "On March 25th Dance News came out with another headline: 'Irvines Beaten'. This was the Latin-American title of the Embassy Ball, in which we danced to a tie with Walter and Marianne Kaiser of Switzerland: on a count of marks, it was shown that we had the same amount but the Kaisers had the greatest number of firsts. We didn't mind; it was a good contest. It's come to something, though, when the headline reads: 'Irvines Beaten' - that's news!" - page 147

Of course, both couples were outstanding. But Walter and Marianne Kaiser must have been so supreme in the Latin American dances in those days that they even won in England with a board of adjudicators exclusively consisting of English Professionals. This was just fabulous and spoke very well for the Kaisers and equally well for the judges!

Walter and Marianne Kaiser - unforgotten

Walter and Marianne Kaiser are unforgotten. In Switzerland some friends keep their memory alive. And Marianne Kaiser-Bingel keeps the name "Kaiser" alive with her Dance School and the Kaiser Ball. From time to time a journalist mentions very briefly the glorious past of the most successful Swiss dancing couple ever:

"It is vaguely known, that the former proprietor of the Dance School Kaiser, Walter Kaiser, and Marianne Kaiser I were a legendary dance couple, European and World Champions. Later, at the end of the ‘60’s Marianne Kaiser II stepped into the life of her former dance teacher. For some time they managed the Dance School together. Since 1988 Marianne Kaiser II owns the Dance School Kaiser.”

(NZZ / New Journal of Zurich, 7th December 2002, in a report of the Kaiser Ball)

(Original Swiss text: "Man weiss vage, dass deren (Tanzschul-) Besitzer, Walter Kaiser, mit Marianne Kaiser I. ein legendäres Turnierpaar bildete, europa- und weltmeisterlich gar, dass Marianne Kaiser II. die Schule mit besagtem Walter, ihrem ehemaligen Tanzlehrer, Ende der sechziger Jahre führte, sie 1988 kaufte und heute Alleininhaberin ist.")

The English dance magazine "Dance Today" (the former "Ballroom Dancing Times") published in October 2002 a fascinating article by Kit Hallewell, "Rivalries", about the greatest Champions and the corresponding rivalries of the past. The rivalries created tremendous atmosphere and excitement both for the spectators and the couples. The article of Kit Hallewell concentrated on the rivalries at the Blackpool Dance Festival.

Walter and Marianne Kaiser were also mentioned, of course: "It was in 1961 that Latin was introduced into the programme, and, as might have been expected, produced its own crop of rivalries, beginning with the early years when Walter and Marianne Kaiser of Switzerland strove to hold off Robert and Margaret O'Hara... The Kaisers took first in Latin in 1962, 1963 and 1964, closely challenged by the O'Haras who were second in 1963 and 1964, but were first in 1965."

(Remark: the Kaisers didn’t dance at Blackpool in 1965.)

October 2002: Rivalries in Blackpool

A shorter version of the tribute to Walter and Marianne Kaiser
was published in August 2004 in the Swiss Dance Magazine "CH Tanz"

Forty years have passed since the fabulous successes of Walter and Marianne Kaiser in Blackpool. They were the first ever British Professional Latin American Champions. They retired undefeated and won’t be forgotten as long as Ballroom Dancing exists and as long as record books and memories are kept alive. Walter and Marianne Kaiser deserve the deepest respect and gratitude for everything they have done for and given to the dancing world!

Michael Scherer

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