Dr Heather Blasdale Clarke is a dance teacher and cultural 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, including William Dampier, James Cook, and Flinders; and the elite dance culture of the early colony.
In 2018 she completed a professional doctorate to research the intriguing topic of convict dance. Other areas of study include the dancing on board ships for 17th & 18th century explorers, colonial convicts, and immigrants; and Anglo/Celtic traditions of step dancing in Australia.
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.
Telephone: +61 7 3289 4708
Blasdale Clarke, H. E. (2021). Keller’s Approach: New Perspectives in Dance History. In L. Lohman (Ed.), Researching Secular Music and Dance in the Early United States: Extending the Legacy of Kate Van Winkle Keller: Routledge.
Lohman, L., Hildebrand, D. K., & Blasdale Clarke, H. E. (2021). Conclusion. In L. Lohman (Ed.), Researching Secular Music and Dance in the Early United States: Extending the Legacy of Kate Van Winkle Keller: Routledge.
Journal article James Cook: a culture of music and dance in Lindisfarne
The Abbey Museum Friends Magazine (2020)
Journal article Dancing with Cook: soft airs and hornpipes with the great navigator in 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)
The history of step dancing in Australia. In Stepping On: Stepping in Dance across the British Isles and beyond, Conference proceedings. London (2019)
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.
(25 August 2018 – 18 November 2018)
Conferences and presentations
“Life on board convict ships” Podcast for Convict Australia with Jennifer Twemlow. Dr Heather Clarke describes the conditions of these early voyages and the turning point that brought about better conditions for convicts. (April 2021)
“5 Things inside the dancing mind of…” series. Interview with Heather Clarke for the USA Historical Tea and Dance Society (8 December 2020) https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Ipaw38SZrjOFMouNA61wG8ykeaAyflt8/edit?t=544
“Captain James Cook: a culture of music and dance.” Video produced for The Historical Dance Society Lockdown Lectures (October 2020)
Stepping On: A conference on stepping in dance in the British Isles and beyond. (16 – 17 November 2019)
Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regent’s Park Road, London, NW1 7AY
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. Interview for the Emerging historians series (15 March 2019)
National Folklore Conference, Canberra. 2019
Lecture: Rediscovering a lost convict culture. Facilitated by the Australian Folklore Network, the National Library of Australia, the National Folk Festival and the Australia -Asia-Pacific Institute, Curtin University.
Sounds Heritage Seminar, Elizabeth Bay House, Sydney (28 March 2017)
Lecture: Dancing in Fetters: the culture of convict dance
Lecture: Redcoats Reeling: Dance and music in the British Regiment for Redcoats: the service and legacy of British soldiers in Moreton Bay Pine Rivers Museum, August/October 2016.
A Charity Ball at Old Government House was held in conjunctive with the exhibition. http://www.colonialdance.com.au/2016-regency-ball
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. Six months in England, Scotland and USA 2018 including Lenox Assembly and Pinewoods English Week.
National Folk Festival, Canberra. 2016
Lecture: Tracing History Through Dance
Dance workshop: Captain Cook’s Country Dance
National Folklore Conference, Canberra. 2016
Lecture: Researching Convict Music and Dance. Facilitated by the Australian Folklore Network, the National Library of Australia, the National Folk Festival and the Australia -Asia-Pacific Institute, Curtin University.
The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo. A heritage talk, dance workshops, Regency Dance & Supper as part of the exhibition Napoleon’s Last Gamble Exhibition. (2015)
Member of Ausdance Queensland
Ausdance Queensland provides professional advocacy and industry development for Queensland dance through strong local, regional, national and international networks.
Committee member of Bushtraditions.org promoting Australia’s cultural heritage in word, bush songs, tunes and dances.
Chair of the Australian Social Dance Network.
Australian representative 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 www.colonialdance.com.au 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.