Wilton dance legacy lives on

While longtime Wilton dance instructor Walter Schalk may have gone into retirement recently, several of his former teachers and students are carrying on his dance traditions.

Two of them, Kristyn Overby Prial and Patricia Gray McCarthy, have formed Encore Dance, a new dance program for children, featuring classes in ballet, jazz, theater dance, West Coast swing and hip-hop.

Classes are being offered for ages preschool through high school, and will be held at Comstock Community Center, 180 School Road, starting in September.

Originally from Wilton, Prial, who now lives in Ridgefield, started taking dance classes at the Walter Schalk School of Dance when she was 10. McCarthy, who now lives in Weston, started when she was four.

Both developed a lifelong love of dancing, which they say was fostered by Schalk’s recreational and noncompetitive dance philosophy. “Some kids just want to dance,” said Prial. “The goal of our dance school is life-balance. Some of our dancers come to us as budding artists, while others come purely for the fun of it,” she said.

Encore’s classes are designed to fit into the busy schedules children have with other extracurricular activities, including sports. “Dance is very helpful for budding athletes, it helps with their coordination and motor skills,” Prial said.

After years of teaching dance, Prial is encouraged by the positive results she has seen in her students. “Dance gives children self-confidence, poise and a sense of self-accomplishment. They learn how strong they are,” she said.

When Schalk retired in March, after 62 years of teaching, he sent a letter to parents, highly endorsing Prial and McCarthy’s new venture. “I always hoped that someone would carry on my tradition of teaching dance and it gives me great pleasure to announce that two of my most tenured and trusted instructors, Kristyn and Patricia, are opening Encore Dance,” he said.

Encore’s team of teachers also previously studied and worked with Schalk and include Ashley Mills who grew up in Wilton, Robyn Denke of Fairfield, Amy Hoaglund of Ridgefield, and Jen Cippoletti and Tami Hughes of Darien. In addition, Brian and Alexandra Faust will be teaching classes in West Coast swing.

“We’re a family. There is good friendship and camaraderie that we developed working with Walter, and we share his love of dance,” Prial said.

Upcoming plans for Encore Dance include a holiday show on Dec. 7 at the Clune Center at Wilton High School, as well as a Spring Revue on March 28.

Visit encoredancect.com for class schedule and registration information.