High Five with Janine Walsh

Janine Walsh, the co-owner/director of Walker’s Gymnastics & Dance in Lowell, MA, knows firsthand the importance of family—not only because she’s part of a successful, family-run business with her brother and sister-in-law, but also because she considers everyone who steps through the door at Walker’s a part of her extended family. This year at Headliners Nationals, that family was particularly successful, earning awards such as Choreographer of the Year, first place in teen line and teen class, and third place in the Platinum Circle. Cynthia Huang, one of Walker’s senior dancers, brought home the coveted “Miss Headliner” crown.

So what’s the secret to this studio’s success? Walsh says it’s the top-notch teachers she’s hired, along with her daughter Jaclyn K. Walsh who teaches competition dance.

Your students are incredibly well-rounded. How do you achieve that?

When my sister, Denise, and father, Reginald, first created Walker’s 31 years ago, it was a gymnastics studio. Denise was a gymnast who competed internationally on many U.S. teams, so the studio came out of her training and professional experience. As the program developed, we realized that our gymnasts needed dance training in order to enhance their abilities. We went off in search of quality people to train our gymnasts in dance, and because that was such a successful crossover, we now offer full gymnastic and dance programs.

How do you get kids on the comp team?

We don’t hold a formal audition because most of the students who advance to our competition team are from our studio. That makes it easy for us to place them in routines where they’ll make a good fit. If a dancer wants to join our team and isn’t already a member of the studio, we ask that she come take classes so that we can decide where she fits into our program.

How do you work with both your competition team and the non-comp kids at your studio?

We do not use our combined technique classes to run competition routines, even if we have a competition that weekend. That’s not fair to the non-competition dancers. The technique classes are what make stronger dancers and better artists, so ultimately it affects their competition performance quality.

Our competition team isn’t just for the most talented dancers at the studio. We focus on creating experiences and opportunities for all of our dancers. At competition, we make sure the students we bring are there to hold their heads high and maximize their training.

What performance opportunities exist for your non-comp students?

The recital we put on at the end of the year is for everyone. We perform a full-length production like one you’d see on Broadway. This past year we did The Sound of Music and the year before we did Wicked. This kind of show holds everyone’s attention—even the dads and grandfathers love it!

How do you make sure all your dancers feel special?

We rotate who gets the lead roles in the recital each year. We want to make sure that by the time each dancer graduates high school, they’ve performed a lead role twice.

We are committed to finding quality teachers—those who are good teachers and good people. How you treat people matters. The faculty here is part of our family, and it’s a blessing.

Photo courtesy of Walker's Dance

News
Clockwise from top left: Courtesy Ford Foundation; Christian Peacock; Nathan James, Courtesy Gibson; David Gonsier, courtesy Marshall; Bill Zemanek, courtesy King; Josefina Santos, courtesy Brown; Jayme Thornton; Ian Douglas, courtesy American Realness

Since 1954, the Dance Magazine Awards have celebrated the living legends of our field—from Martha Graham to Misty Copeland to Alvin Ailey to Gene Kelly.

This year is no different. But for the first time ever, the Dance Magazine Awards will be presented virtually—which is good news for aspiring dancers (and their teachers!) everywhere. (Plus, there's a special student rate of $25.)

The Dance Magazine Awards aren't just a celebration of the people who shape the dance field—they're a unique educational opportunity and a chance for dancers to see their idols up close.

Keep reading... Show less
Leap! Executive Director Drew Vamosi (Courtesy Leap!)

Since its inaugural season in 2012, Leap! National Dance Competition has been all about the little things.

"I wanted to have a 'boutique' competition. One where we went out to only one city every weekend, so I could be there myself, and we could really get to know the teachers and watch their kids progress from year to year," says Leap! executive director Drew Vamosi. According to Vamosi, thoughtful details make all the difference, especially during a global pandemic that's thrown many dancers' typical comp-season schedules for a loop. That's why Leap! prides itself on features like its professional-quality set design, as well as its one-of-a-kind leaping competition, where dancers can show off their best tricks for special cash and merchandise prizes.

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Getty Images

The term "body shaming" might bring up memories of that instructor from your own training who made critical remarks about—or even poked and prodded—dancers' bodies.

Thankfully, we're (mostly) past the days when authority figures felt free to openly mock a dancer's appearance. But body shaming remains a toxic presence in the studio, says Dr. Nadine Kaslow, psychologist for Atlanta Ballet: "It's just more hidden and more subtle." Here's how to make sure your teaching isn't part of the problem.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.