How Denise Wall Teaches Alignment

Photo by Matthew Murphy

If you watched Season 13 of "Dancing with the Stars," you may remember contestant Ricki Lake struggling to maintain correct posture. Yet the problem seemed to miraculously disappear one week, when she received a perfect score of 30 from the judges. In a post-show interview, Lake credited Virginia-based teacher Denise Wall, who had Skyped her to offer a helpful correction. The secret? Says Wall: "I taught her my T-neck."


The T-neck, as she calls it, is just one of the terms Wall has coined for a series of postural adjustments to help dancers find an anatomically correct and workable alignment. Students struggle with placement, even if they hear the same correction every class. The remedy, says Wall, is finding the precise way to make it resonate with students.

“I had one girl whose shoulders were always up when she'd go across the floor," she says, noting that no matter what the correction was, nothing seemed to fix the raised shoulders. “Finally, I said, 'Just lengthen your neck out of your shoulders!' And all of a sudden I had a giraffe on my hands. So I started saying it to everyone."

Wall's methods have grown out of 30 years of teaching, 23 of which have been at her own studio in Virginia Beach, VA. “As teachers, we often correct by giving the final result: If your shoulders are forward, we'll say, 'Put them back,'" she says. “But your student, the overachiever, will go to the other extreme, creating another set of problems."

Wall suggests giving your students imagery to enhance the way they think about alignment. This way, you're not providing a quick fix, and with a better understanding of how their body works, students will—over time—change their movement patterns.

Drawing on shapes or recognizable images is key, and Wall brings rope, balls and T-shirts to class to demonstrate her ideas. She is careful to point out that it does take time to fine-tune the imagery that sticks with students, but whatever works, works. She found the images described on the following pages to be successful with students. However, “If it takes them thinking 'strawberries' to make them do it," she says, keep those fruit images coming. “It just has to register with their brains."

Watch Wall demonstrate her "T-neck" and other imagery:


Thinkstock

With Thanksgiving approaching, we're all ruminating on the things we are most thankful for in the world. Of course, as dance teachers, our students are always at the top of our list. They make us laugh, they make us cry and sometimes they make us want to pull our hair out, but at the end of the day, they are the reason for everything we do in the studio each day. To get you thinking about how much you love your dancers, here are five videos of kids dancing that are sure to make your heart happy! We want to see the dancers you're thankful for this season, too, so share your favorite videos on social media, tag us and include #gratitudedance in the caption. Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Thinkstock

No matter how hard I work to change it, I'm often told that I have a shallow plié. Is there any hope for improving the depth of my plié through special stretches to make it juicier? I'm doing a lot of exercises, but I don't seem to getting any results. Looking forward to reading your advice. Thanks!

Keep reading... Show less
Videos

When New York City–based dancer Dan Lai began choreographing Figure 8, he had a specific vision in mind. Inspired by a song by FKA Twigs, he wanted the movement to represent the music's "dark and twisted vibe." "My thought process was to make shapes and phrases that were abstract and unique that complimented the intricate beats of the music," he says.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Buzz
Thinkstock

Science has proven again, again that dancing is just, well, good for you. And not even in moderation. Like drinking water or laughing, there's no such thing as too much dancing. So, let's rejoice for this new dance perk to add to the list.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
To make dancers stronger and less injury-prone, Burns Wilson suggest adding floor barre or conditioning classes. Photo courtesy of Burns Wilson

With a career spanning 30-plus years in the dance field, Anneliese Burns Wilson has cultivated a unique perspective on health and injury prevention for dancers. From teaching ballet to teaching anatomy, she then founded ABC for Dance, which publishes dance-teaching materials. Now through research for her next book, which will focus on training the female adolescent dancer, she's delving even deeper into topics many dance teachers have overlooked.

Keep reading... Show less
Erdmann (left) on set for Hairspray Live. Courtesy of Erdmann

When Wicked ensemble member Kelli Erdman was training at Westlake Dance Center in Seattle, her teacher Kirsten Cooper taught her that focused transitions would be pivotal to her success as a dancer. Now as a professional, Erdmann applies this advice to her daily performances, asserting that she will never let the details of her dancing get blurry.

Keep reading... Show less
How-To
Photo by Nancy Adler, courtesy of Maria Hanley

When a principal, teacher, or parent walks into a room and sees 20 children rolling around on the floor and then leaping for the sky (learning about level changes), or jumping about like frogs (in a role-playing improvisation activity), they might not always understand what's going on. That's why Deborah Damast, clinical assistant professor and artistic advisor of the dance education program at NYU Steinhardt, offered up several responses as to why this type of movement—often a precursor to formal ballet/tap/jazz classes—is so very important.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored