Tap into the party at Pamelot School of Dance

Local studio celebrates three decades of classes
By: Paul Cambra, Features Editor
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Pamelot, a School of Dance

30-year anniversary open house celebration
Free dance classes for all ages
Where: 540 Wall St., Auburn
When: Tuesday, Oct. 2
Info: (530) 888-6206,

3:30-4:15 p.m.:
Jazz, hip-hop (3-8 years old)
4:30-5:15 p.m.: Musical theater (all ages)
5:30-6:15 p.m.: Jazz, pop (9 years and up)
6:30-7:15 p.m.: Hip hop (9 years and up)

Famed choreographer George Balanchine once said, “I don’t want people who want to dance, I want people who have to dance.”
That’s all well and good for the small percentage of the population with the physical tools and the dogged determination necessary for the professional ranks. At Pamelot: a School of Dance in Auburn, they realize not everyone is headed  for a career on the stage. But that’s no reason not to dance.
“We grow human beings,” said Debbi Sampson, manager and teacher at Pamelot. “Most of our students will become everything else on the planet besides dancers.”
Of course, there are those who will continue with their training, be it in college or beyond. And for those, Sampson and company are well-equipped to guide. One former student just finished a three-year run touring with “Wicked.” Another former student owns three dance studios. Some get degrees in dance; others teach or perform. Sampson, whose parents, Jim and Pam Harrold, opened Pamelot in 1984, has done a little of each.
“I’ve been dancing since I was 3,” she said. “My mom opened Pamelot when I was 12, and I’ve been in the studio ever since.”
Her mother has always had the best interest of the students in mind, she too realizing most will not turn professional. But it doesn’t mean they won’t get quality training in a supportive environment.
“My main philosophy is, I am in Auburn. There’s not going to be a whole lot of kids that are going to make dance their career coming from Auburn,” Pam Harrold said. “For that, they need to get into a larger dance forum. And I can train kids to go on to that. My goal is to guide them with good sound techniques and training in a G-rated family atmosphere where they can feel safe and their parents will feel safe they are there.”
Harrold said she does not allow certain language, music or clothing in the studio. They stress team spirit and support for fellow dancers.
“We guide the younger kids to believe in themselves,” she said. “I want to give them a lifetime memory and a lifetime foundation in the time that I have them.”
And in 30 years she’s seen a lot of kids come waltzing, bopping and hip-hoppin’ through her doors. But what does she envision for the next 30 years?
“To have Pamelot go on under the tutelage of Debbi and be able to teach be with the kids because I love them and do community work in this field as much as I can,” she said.
As for daughter Debbi, she is just fine with that
“I would love to continue the philosophy my parents have built,” she said. “To continue to grow human beings.”
With students ranging from 2 years old to twice her age, Sampson sees a wide range of skill sets and abilities. When a person walks through the door and says “I want to take a dance class,” she needs to be able to steer them wisely.
“The most important is to find a genre that is inspiring,” she said. “You have to love it first. We can go from there. If they have a lively personality I will steer them toward jazz or tap or musical theater. If they are very disciplined, then ballet or modern.”
Sampson said she requires a lot of her students, many of whom juggle school and extracurricular activities with the rumba and the jazz.
“They have to want to be here, willing to work hard,” she said. “We work them hard. They sweat. Most are excellent at academics. In order to go on in life they have to have that discipline; that will translate later on in their life.”
In addition the discipline — and the sweat — the students also learn the joy of giving. The studio puts on a Christmas show every year, the proceeds of which benefit a local family in need. The cost of admission is a present, or something to help the family have a happy holiday. It all started when Harrold, who has an extensive history in musical theater, had the idea to put on a show.
“I am a lot like Lucille Ball,” she said. “‘Oh, let’s do a show!’ I have always been involved in doing shows. When I was little, my cat was my cast and she wore my doll clothes and she didn’t like it very much.”
They figured they would put all of the talent around them to good use. Her husband, Jim, built a small, modular stage, but the audience got so big they had to move it to Skyridge Elementary. Last year they got enough donations to support to two families.
“They were given a huge Christmas,” she said. “It’s good for the kids; they get to give and they get excited about it.”
Philanthropy and dance apparently make fine partners, but one would think philosophy existed on the opposite end of the cultural spectrum. Even so, it was none other than Friedrich Nietzsche who said, “We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”
For those willing to give it a try, Pamelot is offering a day of free dance classes to celebrate their 30 years in business. For information, go to