About Us


Principal: Shona Bennett


Holder of CUA40313 Certificate IV
in Dance Teaching & Management
Registered Teacher of Cecchetti Ballet Australia and Jazz Dance New Zealand
Member of NZADT

With an Licentiate in teaching, Shona is fully qualified and registered to teach ballet.  She is also a registered teacher of Jazz Dance NZ.  In 2011 Shona passed her Licentiate Teaching Exam and is holder of Certicate IV in Dance Teaching and Management.

Shona began her training in Dunedin at the age of six with Helen Bray and went on to study at the NZ School of Dance as a teacher trainee, withdrawing from the course due to serious injury.  Once recovered and still with the passion to teach, she trained under Helen Bray to sit her first teaching exam. Since opening in 1994 with one class, the school has steadily grown, instilled with the philosophy that all children and adults should enjoy the world of dance and how it can benefit their lives.

Shona's future goals are to sit further teaching exams, continue to learn about dance physiology, anatomy and injury prevention, and to continue building on the high standards of achievement at the school, above all sharing a love and enjoyment of dance with all her pupils.

Our Teachers


Meredith Walker

Cecchetti Advanced 1 Ballet
I started ballet lessons at the age of five and have been dancing at the Bennett School of Ballet and Jazz since 2011. In 2014 I began volunteering as a student helper for Tiny Tots classes, before becoming a teacher in 2018. I have really enjoyed sharing my love of dance and watching students learn and grow in confidence. Currently, I am studying Law and Politics at the University of Otago and continue to attend classes in ballet and jazz. I am really looking forward to another fun year of teaching, and helping students prepare for exams and the end of year concert. 


Emma Donaldson

Advanced 2 BBO Ballet, Intermediate Cecchetti Ballet, Advanced BBO Jazz, Advanced UK Tap, Advanced BBO Character
I am a Sydney born dancer, trained in Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Character, Contemporary and Hip Hop. I started working as a dancer at the age of 17 and completed numerous overseas contracts in India and Taiwan as well as performing in Sydney and around NSW. I began teaching in Sydney, taking Jazz and Hip Hop classes. I started attending classes at Bennett School of Ballet and Jazz in 2008 when I moved to Dunedin and began teaching classes for Mrs Bennett in 2011. In 2013, I started taking Jazz syllabus classes, preparing students for their exams and I now take classes in Jazz, Ballet, Tap, Musical Theatre, Stretch and Conditioning, Adults classes and prepare students for competitions with solos and troupes dances.

I have kept performing since moving to Dunedin, was in the Big Night In at the Stadium in 2011. I was also part of the Otago Dancers for 4 years, dancing at various corporate and sporting events and flew to Los Angeles to perform at Disneyland in 2015. I have been involved in the Musical Theatre scene in Dunedin for a since 2014, choreographing the likes of Mamma Mia, Grease - The Arena Spectacular, Mary Poppins, Wicked and Chicago to name a few.

I’m really looking forward to the year ahead at Bennett School of Ballet and Jazz, I can’t wait to see the returning students, meet the new students and get started on teaching the new grade work.


Ana Finnie

Jazz Dance NZ Advanced 1

I started at Bennett School of Ballet and Jazz in 2008 and my passion for dance started to grow. In 2017 I started as a teacher helper in Tiny Tots classes to share my love for dance with the younger students. In 2020 I got the opportunity to teach my own classes. I have enjoyed seeing the kids learn and grow and am looking forward to seeing returning and new student show their creativity.

Kate Ward

Advanced 1 Ballet, Advanced 1 Jazz

I started ballet lessons at Bennett School of Ballet and Jazz in 2010, where my love and passion for dance began to grow. In 2020 I started as a Tiny Tots helper to expand my passion for teaching and to watch the younger students find their own love for dance. I am currently a year 13 student at Otago Girls’ High School as well as taking many classes at Bennett School of Ballet and Jazz including Ballet, Jazz and Musical Theatre. 

Phoebe Harris

Advanced 1 Cecchetti Ballet, Intermediate Jazz, Senior Gold Tap

I started at the Bennett school when I was 4 years old where I discovered my love for dance. Over my time at BSBJ I have taken classes in various different styles such as Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Contemporary, Musical Theatre, and Russian Character. In 2020 I began my journey as a Tiny Tots helper, where from there I developed an enjoyment of working with the younger students. I am now going into year 13 at Trinity Catholic College, and I am thrilled to be teaching my very own tiny tots class this year. I am looking forward to meeting all the young students, and I hope to encourage their love of dance to grow just as mine did.


Kilda Northcott

Growing up in Kawerau, I studied dance and performed end of year shows with the Ruby Conway School of Dance.   I then went on to study fulltime in Auckland at The New Zealand Dance Centre directed by Russell Kerr and Basil Pattison, followed by study at The Bodenwieser Dance Center in Sydney, Australia & modern dance at The Merce Cunningham School in New York, New York, performing in both those cities. Returning to Auckland in the late 1970's I became a founding member of Movement Theatre in Education & then The Limbs Dance Company.  I returned to Sydney in 1983 and joined Darc Swan directed by Chris Jannides who also founded Limbs.  In 1989 I returned to New Zealand to become a founding member of The Douglas Wright Dance Company then freelanced as a performer/teacher of dance in and around New Zealand.  Based in Wellington, I taught contemporary dance at The Wellington Performing Arts Center.  I was also co-director & co-choreographed works with Lyne Pringle as part of Bipeds.  I then moved to Dunedin where I have been since 2006. I am about to return to the stage (after a total right hip replacement) with Douglas Wright in his latest work  'A Kiss Inside' at the International Arts Festival in Wellington in March. I am looking forward to returning to Bennett School of Ballet & Jazz to teach contemporary.

Student Helpers 2023

Back left to right: Ashleigh Thompson, Ruby Goodchild, Matilda Anderson, Ariana Geddis,
                                 Phoebe Harris
Front left to right: Larisa Chu, Zoe Breet, Lily Robertson, Tara Mullin,

Absent: Eleanor Dean, Clare Ablett

Student Achievements

A number of our students have excelled in their training and continue to pursue careers in dance

    Presently working as Cruise Director for Coral Princess after career as dancer/dance captain/assistant cruise director on cruise ships around the world.

    Graduate of the National Theatre Ballet School in Melbourne, has been working in the field of Pilates/Yoga training.

    Winner of the 2005 Cecchetti Scholarship to attend Summer School in Melbourne


  • Graduate of Contemporary from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London and National Theatre Ballet School, Melbourne.  Currently on contract with Laban Dance Company (London).  Winner of the 2006 Cecchetti Scholarship to attend Summer School in Melbourne, also winning a part scholarship while at Summer School in 2006.  Third place in the Junior Section and Audience Choice Award at the National Ballet Awards held in Christchurch, September 2008.

    Winner of the 2007 Cecchetti Scholarship to attend Summer School in Melbourne.  Graduate of NZ School of Dance (contemporary).  Danced with Footnote Dance Company as freelance dancer. Currently freelance dancer in New Zealand.

    Graduate of WA Conservatoire of Classical Ballet (Perth). Graduate of Lee Academy of Dance in Sydney. Worked with The Wiggles, dancing and promotional work in India.  Contract starting in April 2017 with Moulin Rouge, Paris.

    Graduate of Whitireia New Zealand with a Diploma in Performing Arts (Dance).  Danced in Les Folies de l'Amour and Silhouette Pro dance ensembles. Performed in a commercial for Huawei, with Scarlett Johansson. Dannielle has also studied circus skills in Wellington.

    Graduate of Australian Ballet School, Melbourne.  Chosen for an exchange programme with Canada's National Ballet School and the School of American Ballet.  Currently has contract with Australian Ballet Company and was the 2015 Bloch Ambassador. Third place in the Senior section at the National Ballet Awards held in Christchurch, September 2008.  Received a two week scholarship to attend Summer School at Ballet Victoria, Melbourne.  Winner of the 2008 Cecchetti Scholarship to attend Summer School in Melbourne.

    Passed her Associate Teachers Exam in the Cecchetti Method.

    Passed her Associate Teachers exam and Associate Diploma Part 1 & Part 2 in the Cecchetti Method.

    2017 started full time dance training at Transit Dance in Melbourne.

    2017 started full time Circus training at The Circus Hub in Wellington.

    2018 started full time Classical Ballet training at NZ School of Dance in Wellington.

    2018 started full time Contemporary training at NZ School of Dance in Wellington.

    2021 started full time Classical training at Conlan College in Sydney Australia.

    2023 started at Unitec Auckland to study Contemporary Dance.


Each year the Dance School holds a production

  • 2022     12 Dancing Princesss 
  • 2021     Snow Queen
  • 2020     Wild Wild West
  • 2019     Christmas Carol     
  • 2018     Snow White
  • 2017     Hansel and Gretel
  • 2016     Aladdin
  • 2015     Cinderella
  • 2014     Peter Pan
  • 2013     The Snow Queen
  • 2012     The Christmas Carol
  • 2011     Wild Wild West
  • 2010     Aladdin
  • 2009     Cinderella
  • 2008     Peter Pan
  • 2007     Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • 2006     Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • 2005     Wild Wild West
  • 2004     Christmas Carol
  • 2003     Snow Queen



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