Evelyne and Michael Scherer-Flum
Former Swiss Amateur Ten Dance Couple
Former and undefeated Swiss Amateur Ballroom (Modern) Champions
Former Swiss Professional Ballroom (Modern) Dancers
That's it - no!
Many times we have been asked to write something about ourselves, our dancing years, our results, our experiences, etc. So today we are going to tell you a little about all this...
Almost everything we know about ballroom dancing we owe to the famous British dance teachers we were privileged to work with and to dance teachers on the continent whose knowledge mainly also originates from British Ballroom Dancing.
At the beginning of our career I was studying in England. Evelyne was already a school teacher and I later became one. So we could spend 10-12 weeks a year (our holidays) in England for dancing (mainly in London).
To save money we went there as often as possible by car, always trying to catch a ferry between midnight and 6 a.m., when they had the lowest fares (there was no tunnel yet). The usual procedure was to finish work on Friday, rush home, drive to Calais, cross the Channel and arrive in London at about 7 a.m.
Our landlady was marvellous: she prepared breakfast as soon as we arrived. After this we unpacked and went off for the first lesson or competition.
The first practise session at Michael Stylianos' studio in 1981 was quite a shock: fabulous, attractive dancers were practising there. Almost all gentleman dancers had an Italian flair, dark hair, brown face, perfect bodies... and the lady dancers - wow! The dancing quality was outstanding, at least for us, at the time.
The first evening we didn't even put on our dancing shoes. We just watched and admired the beautiful dancing.
Later we became more courageous and went to all the practise sessions we could manage: to Bob Burgess' and Doreen Freeman's studio in Dulwich, to Benny Tolmeyer's, to the Semley Dance Studio, etc. The system in England was and still is fantastic: top professionals offer once, twice or more times a week practise sessions in the evening. The couples have to pay a small fee and off they go, practising side by side with top professionals and amateurs from all over the world.
It was a wonderful experience, watching these great dancers, talking to some of them, learning from them and practising together. Maybe we should write more about it, some day, about who threw his shoe at his partner (the thrower was a lady), about who shouted at each other in a most frightening manner, both with red heads and both in search for perfection, about...
20 couples and more practised on the same floor at the same time. What an energy and atmosphere they produced. Fabulous! And that's the best way to learn something about floor craft!
Our first English Latin American dance teachers were Roy and Vera Randall. They were pupils and friends of the late Walter Laird. We learnt a lot and had a wonderful time together. Roy was the manager of the John Irvine studio at Mitcham. Among others Walter Laird and Peter Eggleton were teaching there and of course John Irvine himself.
We enjoyed dancing in England so much that we participated in more than 50 competitions and championships all over England.
Our first competitions in England were at the Bournemouth Summer Dance Festival in 1981. At that time we only competed in the Latin American section. And we were very successful from the very first moment, dancing a total of 15 rounds in 4 days.
Our first major result in Switzerland was at the Swiss Ten Dance Championship in 1983 finishing 6th (winners were the famous Viktor Berger and Daniela Dietrich).
In 1982 Viktor Berger and Daniela Dietrich were at the peak of their amateur Latin American career, being finalists in all major championships. Daniela Dietrich was an outstanding dancer - at the time one of the best if not the best amateur latin american lady dancer - and Viktor Berger presented her so well! Of course we were great fans of them. We saw them dancing on many occasions, mainly in London, e.g. at the Night of 100 Stars at the Hammersmith Palais or at the International at the Royal Albert Hall. What memories...
After having finished my studies we both had full time jobs and practised three hours a day, almost every day. This was just too much. We had to retire from one section and decided to concentrate fully on the modern dances (in 1984).
In 1986 and 1987 we were runners-up in the Swiss Amateur Modern Championship and Champions in 1988 and 1989.
Already in the 1980's most of the top couples were able to concentrate fully on dancing, being well supported by their national dance bodies and/or their families and friends. The others had part time jobs, and very few had full time jobs (like us). At the time the amateur status was still very strictly controlled, and teaching as an amateur was in most countries absolutely forbidden (and still is in some countries).
The top amateur modern couples at the time were (1985-1989):
Wim and Els Gevaert, Belgium
André and Astrid Groger, Germany
Stephen Hannah and Lorraine Heeks, England
Erik Hansen and Marion Nielsen, Denmark
Jörg-Peter and Margit Hölck, Germany
Asis and Iran Khadjeh-Nouri, Germany
Erling Langset and Anita Nagren, Norway
Robert Litchfield and Barbara Salt, England
Lasse Ödegaard and Laila Krageböl, Norway
Steve Powell and Carol Mair, England
Thomas and Gabriele Rostalski, Germany
Kim Rygel and Cecilie Brinck, Norway
Andrew Sinkinson and Lorraine Barry, England
Manfred Stiglitz and Sylvia Hahn, Austria
Glen Tierney and Anne Marie Powell, England
Glenn Weiss and Gillian Tickett, Denmark
Oliver and Martina Wessel-Therhorn, Germany
And a number of very good amateur ten dance couples:
Geir Bakke and Trine Dehli, Norway
Horst Beer and Andrea Lankenau, Germany
John Byrnes and Jane Littleton, England
Dirk Cosyns and Linda Jacobs, Belgium
Hans-Reinhard Galke and Bianca Schreiber, Germany
Wim Gevaert and Inge Hansart, Belgium
Jason Gilkinson and Peta Roby, Australia
David Griffin and Adele Preston, England
Jukka Haapalainen and Heli Lahdensuo, Finland
Hein Espen Hattestad and Marie Ann Zachrisson, Norway
Ian Hayes and Kirsty Milne, Scotland
Frank Knief and Andrea Schultz, Germany
Kevin Lee and Susann Cliff, England
Alexander Melnikov and Irina Solomatina, Russia (at the time USSR)
Göran Nordin and Catherine Anderson, Sweden
Göran Nordin and Ann Jönsson, Sweden
Bo Loft Jensen and Helle Poulsen, Denmark
Knut Saeborg and Tone Nyhagen, Norway
Gert Schyberg and Carina Olsen, Denmark
Jens Werner and Pia Kaiser, Denmark
Jens Werner and Charlotte Jörgensen, Denmark
What names and what marvellous couples! With some of them we had closer contact and became friends. In most invitation competitions only the champions from some countries were invited. It was an honour to be part of this exclusive "Champion's Club". Writing down all memories would fill a book...
All of the above mentioned couples participated in one or more grand finals in the European or World Amateur Championships (1985 - 1989) and most of them and many more competed in the famous Open British Championships in Blackpool.
From 1984 - 1989 most World and European Amateur Modern Championships were dominated by three nations: England, Germany and Norway. Other nations played a role: Austria, Belgium and Denmark. No Italian couples yet (Augusto Schiavo and Caterina Arzenton made their first major final in 1990). Today we wonder what has become of the great dance nation Norway where so many fabulous couples in the 1980's came from: Erling Langset and Anita Nagren, Lasse Ödegaard and Laila Krageböl, Kim Rygel and Cecilie Brinck, Geir Bakke and Trine Dehli, Knut Saeborg and Tone Nyhagen, Hein Espen Hattestad and Marie Ann Zachrisson and others. Time changes a lot...
In the World and European Amateur Modern Championships we didn't have spectacular results, but for us and bearing in mind the very good couples that were competing at this time our results were OK. We sometimes made the top 24 and sometimes just missed them:
1986 World Amateur Modern Championship, Aarhus, Denmark: 27th place.
1987 European Amateur Modern Championship, Ljubljana, Slovenia (at the time belonging to Yugoslavia): 23rd place.
1987 World Amateur Modern Championship, Helsinki, Finland: 23rd place.
1988 World Amateur Modern Championship, Frankfurt, Germany: 27th place.
1988 European Amateur Modern Championship, Odensee, Denmark: 25th place.
Some other results from the Continent:
1985, Mid European Amateur Modern Championship, Hamburg, Germany - 7th place. Apart from the good result the highlight was undoubtedly the fabulous Hotel Radisson SAS with direct access to the Congress Centre Hamburg, where the championship took place. We had a room on the 22nd floor with a breathtaking view over central Hamburg and its lakes (Alster). And of course it was most convenient to be able to change in ones own room.
1987, Prize of Europe, Amateur Modern Trophy, Munich, Germany, at the very special German Theatre (Deutsches Theater) - 7th place.
1988 Prize of Europe, Amateur Modern Trophy, Wettingen, Switzerland, organized by the late Alois Müller who over decades contributed so much to the international dance scene with his great events in Switzerland: 6th place.
1988 Leica Amateur Modern Trophy, Braunfels/Wetzlar, Germany: 4th place (best foreign couple, the winner got a Leica camera, the remaining finalists other fine prizes).
1988, Grand Prix of Paris, Amateur Modern, Palais Omnisport - 5th place, 11,000 spectators and 4 TV stations from 4 different countries. One of our best results and a thrilling experience in front of so many spectators!
Our favourite places to dance were:
- the Empress Ballroom, Blackpool (Open British Championships)
- the Royal Albert Hall, London (International Championships)
As professionals and before I became seriously ill we were members of the BDF, the Ballroom Dancer's Federation, a highly recognized organization consisting of mainly British Professionals (founded in 1958) and organizers of e.g. the Star Ball and Championships, the Night of 100 Stars and the International Congress at the Blackpool Dance Festival.
From the BDF Website:
"The Ballroom Dancer's Federation is a leading organisation aiming to promote and protect the Dance Sport Industry.
a) To promote the spirit of good fellowship and sportsmanship and to protect and advance the interests of professional competitors and professionals in general.
b) To further the goodwill and co-operation between those who utilise the services of its members and the governing Dance Sport bodies."
Link to the Ballroom Dancer's Federation:
We have given many demonstrations in France, Germany and Switzerland. The highlight in Germany was a series of demonstrations we were asked to do. We were the only demonstrators and had tremendous receptions.
The highlight in Switzerland was a midnight show at one of the most famous balls in Switzerland, at the Fromm Ball in our home town Basel.
We were told that we were more a couple for the experts than for the average spectator. On the one hand we must have been an attractive couple winning quite a number of special prizes for being the most elegant couple, on the other hand something was missing, although we tried hard. Our presentation was certainly not bad, but maybe lacking of the last bit of glamour and show that is important too in Ballroom Dancing. I think Jack Reavely has found the right words for it in his report of the Professional Rising Star Modern Championship at Blackpool in 1989:
"This year was no exception to the rule of excellence which is always there when the Rising Stars of the Ballroom world take the floor. The standard of dance is terrific to see and, within the event, we can see the future of dancing, and the structural wedges slotted into choreography and action of movement...
Scherer - Flum (Swiss). Beautiful dancing. The slow body flight is there for all to see. Some problems of transmitting outwardly to judges and spectators. It is never easy when you are quietly sensitive as a person or as a dancer either." (Dance News Edition No. 1098, July 13, 1989).
"Some problems of transmitting outwardly..." - this was indeed one of my/(our) problems. Maybe we could have done better, a little... But we have had our share and enjoyed every bit of it, particularly in England.
Favourite dance: Foxtrot.
Second favourite dance: Waltz.
Main activities for Ballroom Dancing today:
Teaching (very reduced), judging (ditto), writing reports/articles and taking photos for the Swiss dance magazine "CH-Tanz" and our homepage (very active).
Nature, hiking, travelling, history of Ballroom Dancing, reading, writing, homepage, music... we have definitely too many interests!
Favourite town: Venice.
I have already mentioned that almost everything we know about ballroom dancing we owe to many British dance teachers and to dance teachers on the continent. Amongst others we had lessons of:
Geoffrey Clapham (who unfortunately died so young)
Vera and Roy Randall
Erika and Valdemaro Santi, Zurich
Ute Streicher, Freiburg, Germany
Modern (in brackets: main topics at the time)
Reg Borrow, Zurich (basics, routines, our coach in Switzerland)
Peter Eggleton (soft knees, flexibility, depth)
Doreen Freeman (footwork, timing)
Janet Gleave (poise, balance, naturalness)
Richard Gleave (basics, musicality, phrasing, routines, naturalness, dynamics, floor craft, everything +)
Bobbie Irvine (poise, balance, "vacuum" between the partners, basics)
Bill Irvine (poise, dominance, various)
John Irvine (routines, musicality, expression, presentation, floor craft, our coach in England)
Rolf Schneider, Zurich (Tango Argentino, to improve the Tango Argentino elements in our Tango routine)
Herbert Stuber, Munich, Germany (figure groups, basics, softness, naturalness, dynamics, teaching hints, everything +)
Uschi Stuber, Munich, Germany (poise, balance, naturalness, expression, presentation, lady's part, etc.)
John Wood (dynamics, basics, expression, presentation, floor craft)
Later (as professionals):
John Del-Roy (lifts)
John Irvine, our coach in England, and some of our other main dance teachers need a special mention:
In 1982 we started working on the modern dances with the late Reg Borrow in Switzerland. Coming from the Latin American dances the hold in the modern dances felt terribly stiff at the beginning and there was no day within the first three months or so where I didn't want to give up. Reg kept me going and after getting used to it and the very good results right from the beginning my ideas soon changed.
When it came to the question as to where to go for ballroom lessons in England, Vera and Roy Randall recommended John Irvine, of course, the owner of the dance studio. We had met John Irvine several times on the stairs. He was a tall, severe looking man and we were not thrilled at all by the idea of having lessons from him. How wrong we were! How great a coach John Irvine was! How much fun we had together! What a lovely person John turned out to be!
When we started to have lessons with John, he had already been 40 years in the dance business, as a professional, all his adult life. He was one of the most experienced dance teachers at the time.
John covered more or less all aspects of ballroom dancing. He gave us most of our routines, knew about the problems of the small floors in Switzerland, worked with us on phrasing, musicality, expression and presentation. He was a great motivator. After a lesson with him we felt like World Champions. We invited him and organised for him 22 weekends in Switzerland where he taught us and many other couples from all over Switzerland.
Both he and Reg Borrow were like fathers to us.
John knew a lot but he knew as well that he was not the only one knowing something, that there were many more other fabulous experts around, telling you sometimes the same but in other words, concentrating on other things, helping you in many different ways and helping you putting the puzzle together until you get it.
He sent us to Doreen Freeman: "watch her feet, how she uses her ankles, watch the movement coming out of her feet, the energy, the strength, watch her timing..." And so we did. Wow! We were fascinated by this Grand Lady of Ballroom Dancing. She had indeed unparalleled feet and footwork and was an excellent teacher too! And she liked our Swiss chocolate so much that she couldn't resist eating it in one evening. That's why she forbade us to bring more chocolate the next time we came to England. And that's the only time we didn't follow her instructions...
The next parts of the body were the knees. John Irvine sent us to Peter Eggleton, naturally. The depth Peter was dancing with was unbelievable. In a Contra Check for instance his right lower leg was parallel to the floor. Because of his depth in dancing he was able to turn his upper body much more than other dancers. His softness was incredible.
At the same time we went to the late Bobbie Irvine. At the beginning she concentrated on the centre, on the hold, showed us how to stand together with a slight rotation of the upper bodies. She insisted on having a very small space between the two bodies so that both partners would be able to be balanced on their own feet all the time. This idea of course works only with stable arms, no firm hold, just enough tension to maintain the hold. Difficult to achieve but possible.
In 1985 we danced our first Amateur World Championship in Southampton. In 1985 we were No. 3 in Switzerland, but because the runners-up couldn't dance, we were allowed to replace them. After the first round Bobbie Irvine kindly came to see me: "You danced well. But you look pale, you must put on some more make-up for the next round..." I hadn't put on make-up at all, and there was no next round. But I followed her advice (and many others she gave us) and from then on always put on make-up. I appreciated her concern and advice very much!
(The paleness came mainly from two cardiac defects, but this came out only 11 years later, unfortunately.)
And yet again a new chapter was opened for us with Richard and Janet Gleave and their pupil professionals Herbert and Uschi Stuber from Munich, Germany. Deep analysis, more about phrasing, naturalness, dynamics, floor craft, everything plus - how lucky we were!
Towards the end of our career we went to John Wood, who was at the time still competing, for dynamics, more basics, expression, presentation, floor craft. Another thrilling experience!
In between we had some lessons from other great dance experts: Marion Welsh (who found a way to make us like the Viennese Waltz, Reg's "party dance"), Stephen Hillier (invited for the Swiss National Team), Anne Lewis (now Anne Gleave)...
And, of course, we always went back to John Irvine and Reg Borrow, our two coaches working so well together...
We always paid special attention in warming up for the practise sessions (and lessons). We tried to find our own balance for about twenty minutes/half an hour or so before we took hold together. Then we practised basic steps, mainly in the Waltz and Foxtrot, for another 30-40 minutes before we started working on our routines. 4-6 times a week...
Looking back we were very privileged indeed. And we are most grateful for everything.
With apologies to Kit Hallewell for slightly changing his last sentences in his great book "Blackpool my Blackpool":
"Our sincere thanks are due to all. But our most profound thanks must be for having been born so conveniently that our lives coincided with the lives of all these fabulous teachers and dancers, organizers and friends we have met in our dancing years.
They have been good years. And there will be many more to come. So that must be all for now. See you..."
Michael Scherer (July 2004)
Many thanks to Dr. Morrin Acheson, our friend from The Queen's College, Oxford, for his comments on the manuscript.