To the classic list of Belgian gems such as beer, chocolate, waffles and fries, do not hesitate to add the unique mobile dance halls of the Klessens family, originally from Campine. The latest generation can take pride in having now conquered the world with their mirror capitals from another era.
The very first mobile dance halls in Belgium date from the 1900s. Buildings with a traditional carved wooden interior in oak or mahogany, sometimes in the Art Nouveau style. Abundant crystals, stained glass windows, romantic and comfortable seating areas in red velvet with golden stitching surround a round dance floor. To this is added an old bar and the brilliance of hundreds of faceted mirrors, these capitals have appeared in almost all fairs. At the start of this century, night owls, revelers and heartbreakers really felt at home. Thanks to these mirrors, they have easy eye contact with their soul mates.
The patriarch of this family business, still active today, was the Dutchman Willem Klessens. He crossed the border in 1912 and made a living as a carpenter in Lommel. But his real passion is elsewhere. After his marriage to Amelia Kaers, he then opened a dance café. In his own words, his cafe lacked atmosphere and he therefore acquired a dance organ in Antwerp. To his surprise, the package also included a real dance tent. The organ was placed in the dance hall, but since he didn’t know what to do with the tent, he put it in a shed at the end of the garden. At the Lommel fair, he therefore decides to take the tent out of the hangar. A resounding success and the promising beginnings of the company ‘spiegeltente Klessens’.
This very first tent was restored in 1920 and named ‘Kempisch Danspaleis’ / Palais de Danse Campinois. In 1930, the second generation of Klessens acquired the Nova Danssalon. Later, a large Decapy dance organ is even installed.
After the Second World War, with the rise of live music, the demand for marquees grew exponentially, with booming names like De Lust, Bon Vivant, Cristal Palace, Majestic, Teatro Colombino, Carrousel, Magic Cristal, Victoria, Pigalle and Queen of Flanders. Each has its own character, charm and atmosphere. The best orchestras in Belgium and abroad want to perform under these marquees. Real live jukeboxes.
The third and fourth generations of Klessens no longer travel only from fair to fair, but seek new horizons, even in distant countries. Popular entertainment of yesteryear is now also appreciated by the most diverse event organizers: festivals, concerts, corporate and private parties, birthdays, fairs, circuses and even theaters for a stylish dinner show.
One hundred years after their creation, the capitals with mirrors are clearly still on the rise.