2024 Biography


Dr Heather Blasdale Clarke is a cultural historian who has dedicated her career to studying and understanding the rich cultural heritage of European dance in Australia. In 2018, she expanded her expertise by conducting doctoral research on the culture of early Australian convicts, further enhancing her knowledge in the field and leading to the development of the museum exhibition Dancing in Fetters: the culture of convict dance.

In addition to her focus on European dance, Heather also delves into the history of dancing on board ships during the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as the Anglo/Celtic traditions of step dancing in Australia. Her research goes beyond the technical aspects of dance, investigating its societal context and significance. Heather has received a total of seven research scholarships, both nationally and internationally, to advance her studies in this field.

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. Heather’s ultimate goal is to contribute to the enrichment of Australia’s dance heritage through workshops, conferences, and the publication of her research findings on the website

Heather is Dance Advisor for the National Folk Festival (2022 – present), Chair of the Australian Social Dance Network, committee member of Bush Traditions Inc, and Australian representative for the Instep Research Team.



Telephone: +61 7 3289 4708


Blasdale Clarke, H. E. (2023). The History of Step Dancing in Australia in
Stepping On: A conference on Stepping in Dance
was organised jointly by the Historical Dance Society, English Folk Dance and Song Society, Instep Research Team and the Dance Department of the University of Roehampton.

Blasdale Clarke, H. E. (2022). Dance Music in Nineteenth-Century Owner-Bound Albums
In Memories of Musical Lives: Music and Dance in Personal Music Collections from Australia and New Zealand. Editors: Rosemary Richards and Julja Szuster.  Lyrebird Press, Melbourne University, Melbourne, Victoria (2022)

Blasdale Clarke, H. E. (2022). Cultural Anthropology on Cook’s Voyages and Music and Dance of the Voyage. In Captain Cook in QueenslandEditors: Rod Kirkpatrick, Margaret Kowald, Ruth Kerr OAM and Val Donovan. The Royal Historical Society of Queensland.

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 – the 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)



Dancing in Fetters: the culture of convict dance. (2022 – 2024)  National tour funded by the Australian Government’s Visions of Australia, with partners The Abbey Museum of Art & Archaeology and Bush Traditions Inc.

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)

“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.

Pine Rivers Museum,  August/October 2016. Lecture:  Redcoats Reeling: Dance and music in the British Regiment for   Redcoats: the service and legacy of British soldiers in Moreton Bay  .

A Charity Ball at Old Government House was held in conjunctive with the Redcoats exhibition.

Research Trips

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)

Community involvement

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   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 seven research scholarships from the Australian Folk Trust, the Country Dance and Song Society (Boston, Massachusetts) and the Historical Dance Society (UK).

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.


2 Responses to Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.