Editor's Note

Several things are apparent about Denise Wall from the moment she enters a room: She is a woman who speaks her mind; she has a lot to say; and she delivers it with a shining life force that is full of heart.

 

When talking about her students, the phrase “I’m like a second mother to her” is likely to come up more than once. It really is as if every child who sets foot in Wall’s Virginia Beach studio is her own flesh and blood. And she’s not beyond legally adopting a student if that is what it takes—Danny Tidwell (ABT, Complexions and now Oslo Ballet), case in point.

 

Indeed, Wall doesn’t seem to understand the concept of “holding back.” She has no qualms, for instance, about calling Simon Cowell to offer a suggestion for his show “The X Factor”—if she can get his phone number. And she definitely can’t keep it to herself when she knows how to help a dancer with their technique—even if that dancer is a “Dancing with the Stars” celebrity contestant whom Wall has never met.

 

In anyone with less authority and information to back it up, this behavior might be dismissed as eccentric or even annoying. But Wall’s students are making names for themselves commercially (including her son Travis whose choreography was nominated for an Emmy), competing on “So You Think You Can Dance” and performing on the pop music circuit. Her strategies work. For a brief sample (and to learn how she corrected the celebrity’s posture), check out  “How I Teach Alignment." Better yet, join us in New York City, July 27–29, at the Dance Teacher Summit, where you can personally experience Wall’s methods and celebrate with her as she accepts the 2012 Dance Teacher Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

The Dance Teacher Summit is where the pages of the magazine come to life. Among the many workshops, panels, performances and exhibits, we’ll be presenting the 2012 Dance Teacher Awards. Every year the editorial team becomes so smitten with the awardees that we are convinced we’ll never love again—though we always do. In this issue, we introduce the four extraordinary women who are being honored this year: Liz Schmidt, Angela Whitehill, Kim Stroud and Katie Glasner. If you know of someone who deserves a Dance Teacher Award, please let us know. We accept nominations year-round and finalists are selected in early March.

 

Regardless of the setting you work in, whether studio, conservatory, K–12 classroom or college, the Dance Teacher Dance Directory puts business contacts at your fingertips when you need them. You’ll want to hang on to this issue all year long. And to include your service or product for teachers in next year’s edition, be sure to contact Jared Smallridge, jsmallridge@dancemedia.com.

Teacher Voices
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In 2001, young Chanel, a determined, ambitious, fiery, headstrong teenager, was about to begin her sophomore year at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, also known as the highly acclaimed "Fame" school. I was a great student, a promising young dancer and well-liked by my teachers and my peers. On paper, everything seemed in order. In reality, this picture-perfect image was fractured. There was a crack that I've attempted to hide, cover up and bury for nearly 20 years.

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Though the #MeToo movement has spurred many dancers to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and abuse, the dance world has yet to have a full reckoning on the subject. Few institutions have made true cultural changes, and many alleged predators continue to work in the industry.

As Chanel DaSilva's story shows, young dancers are particularly vulnerable to abuse because of the power differential between teacher and student. We spoke with eight experts in dance, education and psychology about steps that dance schools could take to protect their students from sexual abuse.

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Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

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