A History of the Broadmoor Waltz Club

Original article written March 1994 by Robert M. Baker, M.D.
Revised and edited by Evelyn Jones, Historian 2011.

The Broadmoor Waltz Club is the oldest continuously active traditional Waltz Club in America.  This beautiful art form combines the lilting strains of a live orchestra, familiar melodies in 3/4 time, the old world gentility of the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado and the energetic practiced pattern dancing of sixty enthusiastic couples.  Ladies wear sparkling evening gowns.  Men wear tuxedos.  Each of the six annual Waltz evenings is one of total elegance.

Evolution:  What is now The Broadmoor Waltz Club arose as a combination of circumstances, imagination and a concern for cultural preservation.  Substantiating details are obtainable from an article in the Silhouette of November 20, 1966, the Sunday Supplement of the former Colorado Springs Free Press, written by Ida Hutchison.  Ida notes: “in the 1930s symphony orchestra players lived under less than ideal conditions as the Great Depression took its toll.  One of Denver's leading music patrons, Mrs. George Cranmer, sought to keep the string musicians from leaving the orchestra by providing employment under unique circumstances.”  She decided to bring back the pleasures of a Viennese supper club, which she had enjoyed as a student in Vienna.  John Browning, a concert violinist and conductor of the Denver Symphony Orchestra, and his wife, a concert pianist, formed a dance orchestra.  The original home of Viennese Waltz Nights was Eddy Ott’s Restaurant in Denver where dancing became more popular than dining.  It was later transferred to the Broadmoor Country Club in Denver and, later still, to the Cosmopolitan Hotel.  As the popularity of the Viennese Waltz Nights increased, and John Browning's magnificent seventeen piece string orchestra grew, several couples from Colorado Springs attended regularly.

A November 1951 Colorado Springs Free Press article confirms that in April 1937 all the necessary ingredients for the inception of The Broadmoor Waltz Club came together.  As the depths of the Great Depression gave way to the vicissitudes of World War II, the phenomenon of gas rationing barred the Colorado Springs patrons from attending the Denver soirees.  The enthusiasm and persistence of the hardy group from Colorado Springs, under the leadership of Mr. Harry Osborne and Dr. Lloyd Shaw, led to John Browning bringing a portion of his strings to the Broadmoor Hotel Main Dining Room to play for The Broadmoor Waltz Club dinner-dances.  Thus Viennese Waltz Nights evolved into both a Denver based group and a Colorado Springs based group, the latter continuing as The Broadmoor Waltz Club, dancing at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs until present day (2011).  

Orchestras: Eventually Mr. Browning and his wife retired to California, leaving a world renowned concert pianist son (also John Browning) and a fabulous tradition of dancing Viennese waltzes at the Broadmoor Hotel.  Following John Browning (father) and John Browning (son) in 1950, Frank John, popular cellist from Denver, brought his orchestra to continue the live music tradition.  Bob McGrew was among a succession of orchestra leaders following Frank John, as was Allen Uhles.  An informative Gazette Telegraph article written by staff writer Elena Jarvis is worth quoting for the data it provides about Allen Uhles who with his orchestra produced the music for about 200 nights of Viennese waltzing during the thirty-three years he was associated with the club.  Citing Ms Jarvis:  "Although primarily a violinist, Allen Uhles played saxophone, baritone horn, flute and clarinet. He performed in the Shriners Band, Broadmoor Jazz Club, was music director for the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind, and was president of the Pikes Peak Musicians Association for many years."  This talented and colorful individual started playing professionally in the 1920's as a vaudeville musician.  After an around-the-world tour as a ship's orchestra leader, he played in a club in Shanghai from 1931 to 1937 returning to the USA as the Japanese began bombarding Shanghai, and as Mrs. Cranmer began the Viennese Waltz Nights.  After Mr. Uhles death, Milt Raymond formed a string orchestra which then provided the music for The Broadmoor Waltz Club.  John Turner carried on the musical tradition for the club from the late 1990’s to 2008.  Since then, Cynthia Robinson, violinist with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, directing the four-piece Waltz Club Combo, has provided our music.

The Dances and Instruction:  In the late 1930’s Dr. Lloyd Shaw, noted educator, author, and teacher of round and square dancing, was called in to instruct the dancers in Viennese waltzing and to establish the custom of pattern dancing at the time of the Viennese Waltz Night.  In this formal style all the couples perform the same steps simultaneously while progressing “in the line of dance,” traveling counterclockwise in a large circle around the dance floor.

Mary Kelleher succeeded Lloyd Shaw in the important post of dance instructor.  She developed the standard of two practices before the first dance of the season, and a practice on the Sunday before each of the other five dances.  Dean and Helen Serna were the dance instructors emeritus for the group while Vic and Elaine Fast and Bob Limbaugh and Bernadette Bruno shared dance instruction in the early 1990’s.  Vic was given the title of Dance Master by the club in the early 2000’s in acknowledgement of his years of dedicated service to the club.  Practice sessions took place at the Acacia Hotel in downtown Colorado Springs on the Sunday before the scheduled dance.  In addition, Vic and his wife, Elaine, offered lessons to beginners twice a week at the Colorado Springs Senior Center for many years.  Since Vic’s passing, the title of Dance Master has been capably held by Kurt Nelson.  Leonard and Sue Bryant have provided the second class and Bruce and Beth Parker currently offer a third.  Love of this dance form and support of blossoming interest in others has created a tradition of members donating their time to offer free lesson.  The level of dance proficiency has increased in recent years such that long-time members Newman and Bonnie McAllister (since 1984) have realized newfound pride in the elegance of our dances.

Each season The Broadmoor Waltz Club members perform twelve dances.  While there is a core of songs/dances that have been with the club for most of our 74 years, from time to time a given dance is replaced by another.  In 2009, member Bill Donaldson composed a new, signature piece, The Broadmoor Waltz (The Last Corté), a musical piece so moving that this writer has been brought to tears more than once by this beautiful composition.  With flowing choreography by Milo and Grace Ferry, the Broadmoor Waltz has become a favorite addition that is exclusive to the club.  Such is the dedication and talent of our membership.

Members: The Club accepts up to sixty member couples each season.  In addition to our membership base in Colorado Springs, dancers have come from the Colorado villages, towns and cities of Manitou Springs, Security, Cascade, Denver, Evergreen, Parker,  Pueblo, and as far away as Sante Fe, New Mexico (Charles and Dorothy Fellnagle.)  That is genuine commitment.  The Fellnagles were regular attendees for years, returning as guests during the 1993 season.

In February 1983, after the Broadmoor Waltz Club Valentine Dance, Mary Carlone, Colorado Springs Sun columnist, reviewed the Club scrapbook from its beginning in 1946 and wrote that it was the oldest existing waltz club and was due to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in three more years. Mrs. Carlone noted that Eleanor Winsor Davis had started the scrap­book and kept it until leaving the group in 1975.  Helen Phelps (Mrs. Leonard Phelps) had been a pioneer member and served in most of the elected positions while assuming maintenance of the record of the club's history.

From an article by Caroline Brown published in her column "round town" in the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph of April 19, 1987, comes information about early Colorado Springs members of The Broadmoor Waltz Club.  Mrs. Brown described how the 50th Anniversary dance was held at the Broadmoor Hotel International Center rather than the Main Ballroom, in order to accommodate the extra guests and former members who attended.  Rich and Terry Bruno were the presidential couple for the golden anniversary.  She also noted that the first photograph in our famous scrapbook shows a Waltz Club dinner party in 1946 hosted by Janet and Jack Dern of the Dern Coffee Co.  In 1948, Mable and George Birdsall figure prominently in the scrapbook.  George was mayor of Colorado Springs after being sheriff of El Paso County, and the Birdsall Power Plant was named after him.  In 1951, Dr. Louis and Harriet Kennedy are noteworthy, among others, and Mr. and Mrs. Joe Loveless (Joe Loveless Flowers) were among the Club's officers.

Dean and Helen Serena contributed enormously to the continuity and success of The Broadmoor Waltz Club.  Joining the organization in 1964 and parlaying a dancing hobby into a profession as dance instructors, the Serenas had thirty years seniority, which established them as the bellwethers of the Club membership in 1994 which approached the longevity of Allen Uhles in service to the Club.  Next longest (we’ve learned not to say 'oldest') members were Larry and Eileen Perotti with twenty-seven years seniority.  They were outstanding contributors to the Club as dance instructors and members of the board of directors.  Other long-standing members were Don and Alice Beverly who joined in 1973, and Eldon and Dixie Hager who followed in 1974.  Dick and Jane Headstrom, members since 1973 and our current bellwethers, were among the first six Denver couples who joined in the early 70’s.  Doc and Velma Way, also from Denver, were among those who joined in the late 70’s.   Bill and Burdene Olson (long associated with productions of ice shows at the Broadmoor World Arena) became members in 1976; Bob and Laurie Baker began in 1977.  Bob and Carol Olson were Colorado Springs members in the 70’s who moved to Denver then renewed their membership in 2010, making the monthly trek with the Headstroms and Ken and Fran Berry. Testimony to the dedication of the group is the fact that twenty-eight of the thirty-eight couples on the 1994 roster had been members for five years or more.  As of the 2010-2011 season 24 of our 46 member couples have been members for more than 5 years.  The 74 years of existence and the stability of the membership of The Broadmoor Waltz Club speak volumes for the high regard these people have for the music, exercise, culture, and social virtues of this form of recreation.

While The Broadmoor Waltz Club was formed as a Viennese waltz club with a string orchestra playing Strauss, the waltzes of the club are now technically “American Glide” style rather than Viennese.  “Waltz Night” at the Broadmoor Hotel is a thrilling combination of music, the old-world ambiance of the Broadmoor Hotel Grand Ballroom, and the soft synchronized twirl, twinkle, vine and swirl of sixty couples intent upon enjoying their special art form. 

In addition to all  persons named above, numerous current and former members have donated their time, and dedication to the club over the years as well as information in the form of anecdotes, pictures and historical data, invaluable to the completion of this summary.  The inclusion of all the names and sources is impossible and the writer apologizes for any omissions.