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

 

Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
Getty Images

After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy TUPAC

When legendary Black ballet dancer Kabby Mitchell III died unexpectedly in 2017, two months before opening his Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center, his friend and business partner Klair Ethridge wasn't sure she had what it took to carry his legacy. Ethridge had been working with Mitchell to co-found TUPAC and planned to serve as its executive director, but she had never envisioned being the face of the school.

Now, Ethridge is heading into her fourth year of leading TUPAC, which she has grown from a fledgling program in an unheated building to a serious ballet school in its own sprung-floor studios, reaching hundreds of students across the Tacoma, Washington, area. The nonprofit has become a case study for what it looks like to carry out the vision of a founder who never had the chance to see his school open—and to take an unapologetically mission-driven approach.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.