Getting to the Art of the Matter: Part 8

By: Peter Van Houten

Want to sell your car? Take a piano class. Interested in law school? Perhaps you should audition for “Guys and Dolls.” A fine arts degree can teach you so many useful skills.

We talked to eight successful former Casper College students who are now working in their respective fields. In discussing their careers, they offer numerous ways that music, dance, painting, and acting apply to other professions such as law, finance, sales, and politics.

If you haven’t yet, make sure you read part 1part 2part 3part 4part 5part 6 and part 7 of this series.

Aaron Wood (AA, ’02)


What if LeBron James had waited until age 18 to pick up a basketball? Would he still be a world champion? Or what if Joe Montana had made the same decision with football?

And yet, 18 was the age when Aaron Wood, now an assistant professor in dance at Idaho State University and a past member of the prestigious Repertory Dance Theatre, took his first formal dance class.

At the time, Wood had enrolled at Casper College, searching for a major and something to fill his time. He decided to audition for the musical “Damn Yankees,” and when he got the part, dance instructor Jodi Youmans-Jones, who saw potential in him, sought him out.

“She asked me why I wasn’t taking any dance classes,” he said, “and soon I had signed up for ballet and the following semester, I picked my major, musical theater.”

Wood discovered that as an art form, dance involved every aspect of his being. Not only did it require him to show off his athletic side, but he also discovered a spiritual experience every time he danced.

After Casper College, he transferred to the University of Wyoming and earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater and dance, then spent a year in New York auditioning and taking classes. In deciding on his master’s degree, he yearned to return to the mountains and open spaces, and eventually was accepted to the University of Utah to study fine arts and modern dance.

“I wanted to refine my skills, which was one reason that I chose the University of Utah, but I also wanted to perform,” Wood said. That goal was met when he joined the prestigious Repertory Dance Theatre, the nation’s oldest and possibly most successful repertory dance company.

A two-year teaching stint at the University of Wyoming eventually landed him in Pocatello, Idaho, where today he works to give his students a profound sense of themselves, as an artist, as a dancer, and as a human being. He also preaches the importance of being professional, something that was instilled in him while at Casper College.

“Dance lends itself to many different modalities whether it is work or a life passion,” Wood said. “Aside from artistry, I find that dancers are strong at working in groups, creating support systems, and taking on leadership roles.”

Those are wise words for a man who didn’t discover his passion until he was 18. Before then, dancing was reserved for his grandmother’s house, where the duo would push back the furniture toward the walls so that young Wood could show off his dance moves while grandma played the organ.

Wood calls it one of his fondest memories.

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Footprints.

Learn more about the dance performance program at Casper College.

Media contact: Lisa S. Icenogle

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