Dr Heather Blasdale Clarke is a dance teacher and historian who has been actively involved in early Australian colonial dance for over three decades. Research includes dances associated with the discovery of New Holland, particularly in relation to William Dampier and James Cook, and the elite dance culture of the early colony. In 2018 she completed a professional doctorate to research the intriguing topic of convict dance. By combining a comprehensive understanding of the many dance traditions relevant to early Australian history, she is able to bring a deep insight to this fascinating study. She has been awarded six research scholarships at national and international levels, frequently presents workshops, and regularly publishes articles on her website www.colonialdance.com.au.
Most importantly, Heather aims to enrich Australia’s dance heritage through workshops, seminars and the publication of research findings. This free website provides readily accessible dance instructions, music and history.
Clarke, Heather Blasdale (2014) Captain Cook’s Country Dance. Australian Folklore, 29 (November), pp. 71-86.
Clarke, Heather Blasdale (2015) Speed the plough. In Hunter, Cynthia (Ed.) The Convict Adventure at Wallis Plains Maitland. Maitland City Council, Maitland, N.S.W, pp. 110-113.
Activity in 2018
Completed professional doctorate at Queensland University of Technology.
Social dance and early Australian settlement: An historical examination of the role of social dance for convicts and the ‘lower orders’ in the period between 1788 and 1840. (available soon via QUT eprints)
Exhibition at Redcliffe Museum. Dancing in Fetters: the culture of convict dance. Developed in partnership with Moreton Bay Regional Council. See more…
25 August 2018 – 18 November 2018. Includes a programme of public events.
Activity in 2016/17
Sounds Heritage Seminar, Elizabeth Bay House, Sydney (28 March 2017)
Lecture: Dancing in Fetters: the culture of convict dance
Doctorate of Creative Industries, Dance Faculty. (23 February 2017)
Completed Project One: Database of convict dance.
Pine Rivers Museum. Redcoats: the service and legacy of British soldiers in Moreton Bay – major exhibition August/October 2016.
A lecture: Redcoats Reeling: Dance and music in the British Regiment.
A Charity Ball at Old Government House was held in conjunctive with the exhibition.
Three months primary research in libraries in England, Scotland, Ireland. 2016
Attendance at major dance festivals: Eastbourne, Chippenham, Litchfield, and York, plus a wide range of other dance events.
Doctorate of Creative Industries, Dance Faculty. 2016
Completed Project Brief How did the early Australian (1788-1840) convicts dance?
National Folk Festival, Canberra. 2016
Lecture: Tracing History Through Dance
Dance workshop: Captain Cook’s Country Dance
National Folklore Conference, Canberra. 2016
Facilitated by the Australian Folklore Network, the National Library of Australia, the National Folk Festival and the Australia -Asia-Pacific Institute, Curtin University.
Lecture: Researching Convict Music and Dance
Chairman of the Australian Social Dance Network.
Member of the Instep Research Team
UK organisation researching clog and step dancing.
Heather is proficient in classical ballet, English country dance, Highland and Scottish country dance, Irish solo and social dance, English/Australia clog dance, and late colonial/old-time dance. She teaches regular classes in Brisbane with special classes provided in other capital cities upon request
Heather has received six research scholarships from the Australian Folk Trust, the Country Dance and Song Society (Boston, Massachusetts) and Dometsch Historical Dance Society.
Performances include dancing at many community events such as regional festivals, school fetes, multicultural events, Highland fairs, small folk festivals and village fairs. More important performances were given in venues such as the Sydney Opera House, National Library of Australia’s World Upside Down Exhibition, Heritage Weeks at the Sydney Town Hall, National Trust properties: Vaucluse House, Hume Cottage, and Lanyon Homestead. Regular performances at the National Folk Festival (1994-present).
Heather danced in the 1992 movie “Over the Hill”, and ABC television dramas “The Boy in the Bush”(D.H. Lawrence), and “Tusitala” (Robert Louis Stevenson).