Fifty Fabulous Years

…of Footworks

In 1962 fifteen year old Pamela Spittles took her first class of students on the front veranda of her parents Alderley (Qld) home.  Who, at the time, would have thought that from this first class of young students, the Pamela Spittles School of Dancing would still be in operation in 2012.  The school underwent a name change in 1988 and became “Footworks Dance Academy” – same principal (but by this time Mrs Pamela Lennon), same caring and encouraging atmosphere. The philosophy of Footworks ensures that every child has the opportunity to succeed to the best of their ability.  As such, examinations and competitions are not compulsory; however students are continually encouraged to extend their skills.  Within this caring environment, students flourish in more than just dance.  The skills developed through participating in dance extend to many facets of life – posture, discipline, team work, grooming to name a few.

Over the years Pamela set up studios in many areas of the northern suburbs of Brisbane, mostly in church halls, school halls, community halls and even an old picture theatre.  She took classes at various times in Alderley, Enoggera, Gaythorne, Keperra, Stafford, Eagle Junction, Ferny Grove, Samford and The Gap.  Sometimes accompanied by her late sister, Sylvia, who regularly played the piano for the ballet lessons, the two would set off most afternoons to one of the local venues.

Some of the venues had no piano so they also carried with them an early model electronic organ and even a record player.  When, eventually, reel to reel tape recorders became available they weighed a tonne but she managed to drag one along with her.  The tapes were constantly twisted or tangled in transport until finally cassette players came on the scene to save the day.  Recording music from record player to one of these now antique machines required a great deal of determination and patience as a recording session would almost always be interrupted by some outside noise and we would have to begin all over.

In 1985 Pam took the opportunity to purchase her own premises at Bargo Street, Arana Hills.  The building was the first supermarket in the Arana Hills area and had previously included a butcher shop and a post office.  It was converted into two dance studios and a dance wear shop.  Pam was one of the first Brisbane dance teachers to operate from her own premises.  Pam’s late mum, Dorothy Spittles, operated the dance wear shop until her retirement some years later.

Pam and Paul (who she married in 1968) had two daughters, Amanda and Elizabeth, who of course were very involved in the dance scene from their earliest years.  By their late teens both girls had became fully qualified to teach and work in the studio and instead of working at Macca’s or in retail they taught dance to the younger students.  Amanda took control of the Eisteddfod Groups for the school and despite holding down a very demanding and senior position within the state public service she spent her Saturdays perfecting the routines at the Arana Hills Studio.

In the early nineties Pam became involved with a group of dance teachers who were keen to put in place an Australian dance syllabus which would benefit  Australian students of dance.  The Australian Teachers of Dancing (ATOD) was formed and Pam became a foundation board member.  The ATOD has since become one of the most significant forces guiding Australian dancers through the many aspects of dance that this country has seen. Many Education Departments throughout Australia now recognize ATOD qualifications and these qualifications now count along with other year twelve results towards tertiary entrance.

Pam was appointed an Examiner for ATOD after gaining her Licentiate Teachers Certificate and she then traveled throughout Australia as an ATOD Examiner for many years.  She has since retired from examining and in 2008 was granted Life Membership of ATOD. Pam and Paul retired to Bribie Island five years ago.

Elizabeth, who joined the teaching staff on completion of grade twelve, is now Principal of Footworks Dance Academy and about two years ago she also became an ATOD Examiner.

Since the early nineties, when Elizabeth began teaching in the community hall,  Footworks has been located in Morayfield and in 1995 Pam and Paul purchased a commercial site at unit 4, 174 Morayfield Road and converted the former Gym in a dance school.  Footworks also conducts classes at the Church of Christ Hall in Foley Street at Bongaree on Bribie Island.

Over the years, many thousands of students have attended classes of ballet, tap or jazz at a Footworks studio.  The vast majority of these students were girls but there has been a slight change recently with the introduction of street tap and hip hop classes which have attracted a growing interest from the boys.

Many past students have achieved a great deal of success in the field of dance and many more have enjoyed just being able to express themselves through the artistry of dance. Some who have gone on to dance professionally include :-

Dianne Bowman, who appeared in our very first recital in 1963, was a performer and Dance Captain at Jupiters Casino.  She appeared on Beauty and the Beast on TV as well as many local musical productions at Twelfth Night Theatre.

Terri-Lee Milne was accepted to study at Australian Ballet School and became a principal dancer with the Queensland Ballet Company.  She later performed with Expressions Dance Company in many productions.

Shannon HatchmanSandra Walker was also accepted to study at the Australian Ballet School in Melbourne.

Paul Hourigan has danced with various ballet companies throughout Australia.

Tracy Carodus performed for several years with Expressions Dance Company and Queensland Ballet Company.

Vanessa Foley danced her way around the world with Moulin Rouge in Paris, Radio City Music Hall in New York and in Majorca in the Mediterranean.

Sam Windsor is currently a member of Raw Metal – the very successful male tap group who perform all over the world.

Leanne Vizer has also performed in many productions locally and in various parts of the world.

Emma and Lara McFarlane. More recently from our Morayfield studio, sisters Emma and Lara McFarlane are currently studying with the Australian Ballet School in Melbourne and look destined to become professional dancers.

Shannon Hatchman is currently studying and working in dance in Sydney.

Many other students have pursued careers in dance as teachers.  These include, Simone Paton ATOD Examiner, Karla Birch, Kate Hodgson and Michelle Bogosh.