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Odd Wisconsin Archive

The "Midget Wedding" & Other Extravaganzas

Frederick W. Kehl emigrated from Germany in 1874 as a twelve-year old orphan and by 1884 had moved to Madison and established Kehl's School of Dance near the Capitol. For generations, Madison children learned to dance there, at a time when dancing was not just a pleasure but a social necessity for middle-class and affluent young people. On June 11, 2005 the Kehl School of Dance celebrated its 125th anniversary with a recital at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

The Kehls started with awkward children, and loved to capitalize on the entertainment potentional of costumes and twins. They even mounted a "midget wedding" in the days when such blatant paternalist stereotyping was considered natural. As their students aged, some became professional dancers and Wisconsin residents went on to dance in Broadway musicals and even the Folies Bergere in Paris.

The bride's wedding costume and other Kehl School of Dance memorabilia will be on display in the lobby of the Wisconsin Historical Society, 816 State Street, Madison, through July 15, 2005. You can see dozens of pictures of Kehl students and performances at Wisconsin Historical Images.
:: Posted in Odd Lives on June 24, 2005

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