WILTON, Conn. – For more than 55 years, thousands of kids who wanted to look smooth on stage or on the dance floor went to Wilton to learn the steps from Walter Schalk — and he still enjoys what he's doing.
"It’s harder than it used to be, but it’s a good time,” said Schalk, a longtime Wilton resident. “I’ll be 80 in a couple of months. I must be a little crazy."
On Tuesday night, the spotlight was on him as he was named the Wilton Chamber of Commerce's 2012 Business Person of the Year at the chamber’s annual dinner at Rolling Hills Country Club.
Schalk, a native of Stamford, began dancing at age 9. As a young man, he performed on variety shows such as "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Fred Waring Show."
He later served in the U.S. Army in Europe. After returning from service, Schalk worked in advertising while choreographing many off-Broadway and summer stock productions. He opened his dance school in 1957 and has taught more than 140,000 people ballroom, jazz and theater dancing.
Schalk was chosen for “his longstanding and passionate commitment to Wilton’s youth and for all of the joy and celebrations he has brought to our town,” Wilton Chamber Executive Director Janeen Leppert said.
Schalk was notified of his honor a week ago and was flattered. Being honored by the Wilton Chamber and applauded by fellow business managers and owners was pretty cool. “It was a nice evening. This was nice. The governor (Dannel Malloy) was there, so that made it nice,” Schalk said. “It’s nice to be appreciated.”