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Pam’s School of Dance is entering 41st year in Toledo

August 27, 2012
By John Speer - Editor , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

September is time for Pam Wood, 79, Toledo, to start classes for her Pam's School of Dance. It's a tradition she has done each September for the past 40 years soon to be in year 41.

Pam's continues to share her vibrant enthusiasm and dedication to dancing that has carried her over this long involvement with the art.

"There's very few tap dance teachers around anymore," Pam says of her vocation. "I have to stay current with all the trends," she said. That's why for example, she includes what she terms "hip hop -jazz" in class subjects.

Article Photos

Long-time dance instructor Pam Wood assumes a ballet pose in her studio space in the Toledo Community Building on Tuesday, Aug. 14. Pam is preparing to enter her 41st year of offering dance classes.
Chronicle/John Speer

"I'm a traditionalist," Pam said. "Everything originated from ballet."

"I'll do it (conduct classes) until I can't or I don't have help," she said last week. "I have three pins in my leg and a knee replacement," she admitted.

With that, she credits her assistants Gail Bradley Ridout and Ali Bro with enabling her to continue to provide eight-month-long dance classes for 130 or more students each September - April term. Those students range anywhere from age three through adult and both girls and boys are students.

Gail leaves her home in LeGrand for her "day job' in Urbandale early so she can be in Toledo in late afternoon to assist. Ali, a student at UNI in Cedar Falls, comes home on Saturdays to help.

They teach ballet, tap and hip-hop.

"The difference in students today is they are all so involved in so many things now," Pam said.

Nonetheless, Pam said, "Ninety percent of my students who begin classes at age three, continue clear through high school, for 14 years."

This success, of course, gives her pride along with the future accomplishments of her students.

She has former students taking part in dance programs and who are on dance teams in college and three who are in professional dance companies.

Dance instruction is not all Pam provides.

With Debbie Bossman, they operate Pam and Deb's Fitness. It's a fitness program for adults which starts at 5:45 a.m. and is designed to enable participants to "keep strong and healthy" Pam said.

She also conducts twice weekly sessions through Hawkeye Valley Area Agency on Aging for senior citizens. There's currently a waiting list to participate.

All of this activity takes place in rented space on the second floor of the Toledo Community Building. The area was little used when Pam began with 10 students there 40 years ago.

Since then literally thousands of dance students have passed through.

Pam is a native of Great Britain and was enrolled in the Royal Academy there from age 12-15.

"I went directly on to the stage at 15 and travelled all over the British Isles," she said.

When they were touring there, Pam remembers her career "dancing behind" such legends as Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Lena Horne, Danny Kaye and many other stars.

That changed when she met and then married U.S. Serviceman Duane Wood. The couple moved to Duane's home area of Cedar Rapids in 1961. In 1971, they moved to Toledo and Pam began her dance school the next year.

With all that activity, Pam has found time for a host of community activities.

She served two terms as Toledo mayor, was a RAGBRAI and Toledo Sesquicentennial chairperson and directed the Follies for the Wieting Theatre for a number of years.

the Woods have two children, Lorraine, a web- designer for Baskow in Las Vegas, Nev. and David, an educational psychologist for Heartland Area Education Agency, who lives in Pella.

They have five grandchildren and one great grandchild.



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