Meet the HDA Team


Ali Richardson-Hickey

Ali has been dancing her entire life. She began her dance training in a wide variety of styles including Jazz, Classical, Lyrical and Acrobatics with Ken McSwain at the age of 6. Ali was already assisting Ken to take classes by the age of 13, and at 16 Ali began teaching classes without supervision. She quickly realised that teaching is her true passion and this experience led her to complete a Bachelor of Education and become a classroom teacher. Whilst working fulltime as a classroom teacher, Ali has managed to play an extremely influential role at Hobart Dance Academy. Ali’s choreography is well renowned and has won numerous prizes at the Southern Tasmanian Dancing Eisteddfods. Although she adored her teaching job, Ali’s lifelong dream has been to become the Owner and Director of Hobart Dance Academy. In 2015, Ali, at last, fulfilled this dream. Her love for dance and for her students is immense and she is delighted to be taking on the role of Director of Hobart Dance Academy.

Ken McSwain

Ken began dancing with Val Trembath in Western Australia after several years training in gymnastics. After a short time, he was transferred to Madame Kira Bousloff, Director of the West Australian Ballet School. Ken became one of the first professional dancers in the West Australian Ballet Company. He then danced as lead Principal Artist with Ballet Victoria, the Sydney Ballet Company and the Perth City Ballet Company. During his time with the Perth City Ballet Company he was appointed Ballet Master for the Company. Under the tutorage of Dianna Waldron, he was also able to complete his R.A.D major exams through to and including his Solo Seal. Ken then moved to the Tasmanian Ballet Company to work with Kenneth Gillespie, as Principal Male and Ballet Master, eventually becoming Artistic Director of the Company. Throughout his performing career, Ken has danced the lead roles in major ballets such as Swan Lake, The Nutcracker Suite, Giselle, Sleeping Beauty as well as most of the other major classics. On retirement, he moved to Hobart and began teaching with Carolyn Stephens; the founder of Hobart Dance Academy.

Tennille Burdon

Tennille works with the Lyrical classes at HDA. She enjoys music and movement, particularly when they come as a package deal. Her classes are aimed at creating technically strong dancers who use their brains, and their hearts. A perfectionist and a dreamer, she is always creating and loves to nurture creativity in the students she works with. Tennille spends her days choreographing routines and has won a couple of prizes for that. Her favourite words are “one more time”.

Mariel Butterworth

Mariel has been involved in the performing arts her entire life; winning numerous awards and scholarships for dance, singing and drama. Mariel’s love for dance commenced at the age of 3 where she began training in jazz, tap, theatrical and lyrical styles under the guidance of Sonny Jose. Over the years Mariel has also been guided and largely influenced by her singing teacher of many years Sharon Prero, as well as classical ballet teachers Ken McSwain and Fiona Szczerbanik (nee Combey). In Mariel’s teenage years she extended her dance training with Tim and Jenny Rogers to include all forms of ballroom dance. Mariel largely attributes their direction and support to the outstanding results that she was able to achieve for both medal examinations and competition work.
Over the years Mariel’s passion for creativity has been evidenced by her ability to not only choreograph a number of award winning routines, but also in being able to assist students develop their performance qualities to their full potential.Mariel joined the teaching faculty of HDA in 2013 where she introduced tap dancing to the range of styles taught at the Academy.
In addition to all things dance, Mariel graduated university in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws, and in 2015, after completing her Diploma of Legal Practice, went on to gain Admission to the Legal Profession.

Elise Watkins

Elise comes to HDA with a personal collection of tap shoes that out-numbers days in the week! She is passionate about all things tap and really enjoys helping students gain confidence while developing correct tap dancing technique. Elise also teaches other styles of theatrical dance and particularly enjoys creating entertaining song & dance numbers.
Elise is a caring and dedicated teacher and this has seen her students win many awards. When she’s not in a dance studio you’ll most likely find her watching 80’s and 09’s sitcom reruns.

Ashley Goodsell

Ashley has been enrolled in dancing since the age of 3, learning a variety of styles of dance including jazz, ballet, tap and lyrical. 
Ashley first began dancing with Hobart Dance Academy at the age of 11 to further knowledge and training in classical ballet. Now teaching at Hobart Dance Academy fulltime, Ash has been involved in competition work; winning scholarships and awards for solos in all styles throughout the years.
"I am very passionate about what I do, and am so happy that I get to be apart of the HDA family with constant support and guidance which has made me the dancer I am today."

Fiona Szczerbanik

Fiona began classical ballet at the age of 5 in New Guinea and continued ballet, growing up in New South Wales and Canberra. When Fiona was 13, her family moved to Hobart and she began jazz with Carolyn Stephens (who founded Hobart Dance Academy) and continued ballet and lyrical with Ken McSwain.  After assisting Ken teaching class, she began teaching both jazz and classical routines for groups and soloists. She was fortunate to continue her dancing and teaching for HDA while completing an Arts/Law degree and then a Bachelor of Education.
A highlight of her time dancing at HDA was the many years of pas de deux (partner/duo work), she was able to perform with Ken. Fiona is delighted to be able to share her love of dance and technique again at HDA, with the young classical classes on Saturday.

Emma Bavage

Emma enjoys teaching ballet at HDA.  She began highland dancing at the age of 2 ½, competing for the first time at the age of 3 and for the last time a few years ago.  She trained in Launceston under Kim Roe for ballet (BAL syllabus), highland dancing, jazz, folkloric and lyrical (called neo classical in her day) and Vicki Press for tap.  She’s always danced and continued to dance in Sydney and Melbourne in her 20s when she moved interstate for work.  She loves singing in the car with her two girls but never on the stage as she can’t hold a note. 
Emma’s favourite sentences are “point your feet” and “where’s your smile?” and she is exited to share her love of dance with the students of HDA.

Kristy Murtagh

Kristy started dancing at age 3 and began competing when she was 5 with 2019 being her first year out of regional and national competition work. 

She has been lucky to have been a part of many dance ventures in her time as a competitive dancer and teacher including national competitions, workshops, photography and events! 

As well as dance teaching and competition work Kristy has been a part of the ensemble in some great Hobart musicals! These include Oliver by exit left productions, Chicago by Bijou creative, We Will Rock You by John x presents and Hobart’s only theatre restaurant 2015.

Although she had a year away from teaching dance in 2019 she did not shy away from performing arts. As well as bringing her little baby Lola into the world she was lucky enough to choreograph My Fair Lady, Carrie the Musical and Ladies in Black for Bijou creative. She also managed and choreographed the cabaret clubs Man Inside the Clues theatre restaurant. 

Kristy is excited to be working with dancers from HDA and is so happy to be a part of the team!