2020 Biography



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

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.




Journal article: Dancing with Cook: soft airs and hornpipes with the great navigator
Signals – quarterly magazine of the Australian National Maritime Museum (1 July 2020)

Book & CD: Captain Cook’s Country Dance (Released 26 April 2020)
19 tunes and dances from early colonial Australia
Music by Phillip’s Dog (Brisbane) & The Whoots (California)

 Dance for early Australian convicts: Discovering a lost culture. Journal of the Historical Dance Society. Historical Dance, 4 (4).  (2019) Also 

 The history of step dancing in Australia. In Stepping On: Stepping in Dance across the British Isles and beyond, 16-17 November 2019, London. [conference proceedings to be published late 2020]

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.
Blasdale Clarke, Heather Evelyn (2018) Queensland University of Technology

The tradition of step dancing in Australia. English Dance and Song, 80(Autumn), pp. 14-15. (2018)

 Dancing heritage in Parramatta. Australian Folklore, 32, pp. 270-274. (2017)

 Speed the plough. In Hunter, Cynthia (Ed.) The Convict Adventure at Wallis Plains Maitland. Maitland City Council, Maitland, N.S.W, pp. 110-113.  (2015)

 Captain Cook’s Country Dance.  Australian Folklore, 29 (November), pp. 71-86.  (2014)



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.

Blasdale-Clarke, Heather Evelyn (2015) Napoleon’s Last Gamble Exhibition. [Exhibition/Event]

Conferences, etc

Stepping On: A conference on stepping in dance in the British Isles and beyond.
Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regent’s Park Road, London, NW1 7AY (16 – 17 November 2019)
Lecture: The history of step dancing in Australia
Video presentation

“Leaps and Bounds” Ausdance Dance Educators’ Conference.  (3 May 2019)
Presentation and workshop: Tracing history through dance.

Australian Historical Association. Emerging historians series (15 March 2019)

National Folklore Conference, Canberra. 2019
Facilitated by the Australian Folklore Network, the National Library of Australia, the National Folk Festival and the Australia -Asia-Pacific Institute, Curtin University.
Lecture: Rediscovering a lost convict culture

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.

Research Trip
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).

Acknowledgement of Country.

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the Country on which we live and work, and pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging. We acknowledge the impact colonialism has had on Aboriginal Country and Aboriginal peoples and that this impact continues to be felt today.

The information on this website may be copied for personal use only, and must be acknowledged as from this website. It may not be reproduced for publication without prior permission from Dr Heather Blasdale Clarke.

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