Seen and Heard at the Dance Teacher Summit: Denise Wall

Our Dance Teacher Summit is less than two weeks away, and we’re marking that countdown today with an interview with Summit ambassador Denise Wall. Wall was DT’s 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award winner and has owned her studio for over 30 years. Her students—including her son, “So You Think You Can Dance” star Travis Wall—have gone on to perform professionally all over the world. We spoke with her about her favorite Summit instructors and typical hot button issues that get dissected at the Summit.

Denise Wall

Co-owner, Denise Wall’s Dance Energy

Virginia Beach, VA

200 students

Dance Teacher: What surprised you most at last year’s Summit?

Denise Wall: When the question of teacher salaries came up at a studio owners’ seminar, it was surprising how different everyone’s answer was. Some people are paying so low, I’m not sure how they get people to work for them. You’re not just paying for the hours of teaching, you’re paying for their knowledge and the time spent preparing for the class. At the same time, I know there’s a wide pay range depending on location. You expect places like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles to have higher salaries, but some other places were paying their teachers at even higher rates.

DT: The age-old question of how to deal with intrusive parents came up during the studio owners’ seminar, as well. What is your solution?

DW: I try to be an open book. In the fall, I did a big open house at the studio for my new parents to let them know what we’re all about. I had all my teachers talk about themselves and their backgrounds. Their resumés are on our website, but having them speak makes a difference.

Then I explained how I place kids in classes. In September the biggest question is always, “Why didn’t Susie move up?” Parents are all about what each level is called, but every year I restructure the school and talk to every teacher about every student to group kids together by what they need to work on at that time, like hip flexibility. I can advance kids more quickly that way. So if they’re in Ballet 1 for three years, parents think they’re not progressing, but they are progressing as a class working on that skill. If I changed the group’s name every year to Ballet 2, Ballet 3, I’d have Ballet 20! I tried explaining the process this time and it actually stopped a lot of the questions. I even had parents there who have been with us for five years.

DT: What is your most memorable experience from the DT Summit?

DW: I met Paula Morgan for the first time at the 2012 Summit. [A popular California-based convention teacher, Morgan has developed her own technique, blending elements of yoga, Pilates and ballet to build long, lean muscles. Former students include Paula Abdul, Tyce Diorio and Ray Leeper.] People kept telling me I had to meet her, and I finally took her class. Within 10 minutes I had tears rolling down my face. When we met, it was like fireworks going off. I was like, “This is my mother of dance.” And being around Judy Rice and Anthony Morigerato—every teacher there is just amazing. It gives me enough motivation to get through a year. —Andrea Marks

 

 

Photos from top: by Matthew Murphy; courtesy of Break the Floor Productions

 

Teachers Trending
Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.