For over 30 years, Denise Wall has been a successful and respected dance teacher, studio owner and award-winning choreographer. Her school, Denise Wall’s Dance Energy Studio, which she founded in 1993, has turned out students who have gone on to enjoy professional careers with American Ballet Theatre, on Broadway, in touring musical theater groups, on hit television shows and more. You may have heard of one of her students, son Travis Wall, for instance. Travis, who grew up in his mom’s studio, is now an Emmy Award-winning choreographer and director of his own company, Shaping Sound. Denise is clearly inspiring her students and doing something right.
This summer, at the Dance Teacher Summit in Long Beach, California, held August 4-6, she will continue to inspire – this time fellow dance educators – as she leads various classes and workshops. Here, get to know a little more about Denise and what she plans to bring to this summer’s Summit.
How long have you been teaching dance, and what do you like best about being a dance teacher?
“I have been teaching for 37 years, and I have co-owned a studio for 27 years. In the span of those years, I also raised five talented sons who all specialize in different genres, so I actually could have my own variety show. What I like best about being a dance teacher is that I have created another family with my students and peers. I love nurturing, so I get to share one of my favorite loves in my life, which is this beautiful art form we call dance!”
When and why did you get involved with Dance Teacher Summit? This year, it’s being held together with the dance festival DancerPalooza! What do you like about these events?
“In 2009, Gil Stroming, who owns Break the Floor Productions, decided to help produce the Dance Teacher Summit with Dance Media to take it to another level. At that point of my career, I was teaching master classes of my own brand of teaching body placement so the students or teachers could understand how to utilize their body better. So when Gil called and asked if I would come on board with this project to teach the teachers and to be one of three ambassadors to council teachers and studio owners, I said, ‘Absolutely!’ After coming on board the following year, Gil and Ray Leeper asked me to join NUVO Dance Convention, where we do a mini Dance Teacher Summit every weekend.
Gil had already started a couple of summer intensives for dancers that happen on different weeks in the summer at different locations. He had just created a new one for contemporary called The Collective. I was brought on to teach technique and to assist the choreographers to clean their pieces before they were filmed. So after a few years, he started adding on new intensives and decided to put all the intensives on the same week and at the same location. I will admit, when I heard that, I thought, ‘Gil has lost his mind. How is this going to work with them all being done at the same time?’ Well, he was a genius because it is an incredible event. Students can go and specialize in a certain genre and mid-week start taking from other master teachers who specialize in other genres. He also produces some of the choreographers and dance companies to put on shows all week long so the students can be exposed and inspired by the professional world. It’s such an amazing and inspirational learning experience for these dancers. It’s also a week of networking and making life-long friendships with dancers from all over our country and from other countries. I so wished we had this when I was growing up!”
Why do you think these events are valuable opportunities for dance teachers and dancers?
“The Dance Teacher Summit is so valuable because you are with other people who do the same thing you do. What we do is not a regular nine-to-five job, and those regular people usually don’t understand artistic people because we are different, especially our schedule. It is so amazing to take classes with the people who understand you, but we also have roundtables where we all discuss positive events and adversities that happen to studio owners and dance teachers. I feel it’s the best therapy of all! I even get great ideas that we have implemented at my studio. At the Summit, they have vendors for every need of a dance teacher and studio owner. They have representatives from costume companies, flooring, barres, backdrops, conventions, competition companies and more.”
Why are you looking forward to this year’s Dance Teacher Summit and DancerPalooza?
“I can’t wait to get back to the Dance Teacher Summit and DancerPalooza because I get to see old friends, make new friends, share my new knowledge and get inspired to keep plugging along in this beautiful art form.”
What classes and workshops will you be leading?
I will be teaching my body placement class. I have a method that makes dancers understand their body more to activate the right muscles, tendons and ligaments to maximize their body power. I will also be teaching a progression class for transitions.”
You are a very successful dance teacher and studio owner. What are some of your secrets to success?
“Don’t ever give up on a student, and every class is a new class. Don’t bring something negative that happened in that last class to the next. Your classes will be more positive and productive.”
For more information on Denise Wall and Denise Wall’s Dance Energy Studio, visit www.denisewall.com. To register for Dance Teacher Summit (August 4-6) or DancerPalooza (July 31-August 6), both held at Long Beach Convention Center in LA, head to danceteachersummit.com and dancerpalooza.com.
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.