Our Teachers

David Smith

I have been involved with Ballroom Dancing for the best part of 25 years, firstly as a medallist, then an amateur competitor, and now currently a professional competitor, coach, and adjudicator. I danced my first waltz at the tender age of 6 in Perth, Western Australia and have not looked back. I fell in love with dancing after my very first class. 9 years ago, I relocated from Perth to Wollongong to further my education as a Ballroom dancer at Dancespace383 with Alan and Donna Shingler. In 2018 I took a significant step in my career turning professional and have loved this stage of my dancing. I currently reside in the Shire and am looking forward to the 2024 competitive season kicking off. I have plans to dance in Victoria, Western Australia, and Tasmania at a National level, moving on to Hong Kong and New York internationally. My full-time profession is dancing. I teach mostly in Wollongong, but also in Sydney and I absolutely love it. I am privileged to teach a huge variety of people, from kids to adults to pensioners, people of all socio-economic backgrounds and abilities. Ballroom really is for anyone and everyone. Some of my most memorable performances to date were at the Blackpool Dance Festival at the Winter Gardens in England. To dance on this floor is a dream, the perfect backdrop for Ballroom Dancing. I danced for the Stars in 2017 and had an absolute blast. I am looking forward to being a part of this brilliant event for the second time, bringing a little Ballroom magic to the event!

Lacinda Fisk

Lacinda began dancing at the age of 3 and trained under the guidance of Lisa Bowmer at Dance Kinetic School of Performing Arts. At 16 she started singing lessons with Craig Woodward at Menai Music and at 18 began performing regularly in local Musical Theatre productions. Roles included: DELTA NU in Legally Blonde the Musical, AMBER in Hairspray & SANDY in Grease. Her love for the arts only grew stronger - seeing her undertake an Advanced Diploma in Performing Arts in 2016-2017 at the prestigious - ED5 International. Upon graduating - Lacinda was offered a contract at Universal Studios Japan for 13 months and then moved on to work for Regent Seven Seas for 8 months where she was lucky enough to cruise the Mediterranean! Prior to COVID Lacinda was working as a SUPER SWING at a brand new theme park in Malaysia that was set to open in late 2020. Lacinda now resides back in the Sutherland Shire and is happy to be working at local dance studios alongside working in the Philanthropy Unit at Cancer Council NSW. Upon returning to Australia Lacinda commenced training vocally with Charmaine Gibbs-Sampson. She longed to continue performing therefore created her very own Cabaret Shows, Songs of Change and Audley Carols, which she performed to sold out audiences in late September and December 2020, and then again in May 2021. Her most recent Cabaret, Songs from a Sunburnt Country, was again performed to a sold out audience in April 2022 and at the Sydney Fringe Festival in September 2022. Throughout the end of 2022 and 2023, she was on contract with the Australian Cruising Group aboard the Sydney Show Boat as a SINGER / HOST. At the end of 2022, Lacinda launched her own Independent Theatre Company - Ikigai Entertainment.  She took on the role of Creative Producer and Performed in the cast in their inaugural production of Xanadu the Musical which ran successfully over a 2 week season at the beginning of 2023.

Ebony Austin

I first started dancing at Diane Blaas School of Dance. I love to perform Jazz, Tap, Contemporary, Lyrical, Musical Theatre, Hip Hop, Commercial Heels, Dance Acrobatics. I've trained over 2 decades under the guidance of Diane Blaas, whom I continues to train underneath her wisdom and expertise from childhood, to adulthood, to studio owner. Are you still a dancer: Professional. What advice would you give to aspiring dancers: Never, ever give up. Always believe in yourself as your number one supporter; trust in your abilities, embrace risks and mistakes, and allow your creativity to flourish as they are the seeds of growth and makes you beautifully human. We hold within us the power to pursue our dreams and make them a reality. Our dreams are always within reach, it's up to you to make it happen. Tell me about your favorite performance as a dancer: My first concert dancing to Mirror Mirror By Hi-Five when I was 3 years old. Including all my staged productions with Illawarra's prestigious drag queen Roxee Horror. I’ve done 2022 Stars of Nowra, 2023 Stars of Nowra & Stars of Wollongong.  I am dancing for my Grandma, Aunty Jay and Ma. Being a part of Stars allows me to actively engage with and support this cause that is close to my heart. By dedicating my talents and energy, I hope to play an impactful role whether it is big or small in raising funds or awareness. Through my participation, I hope to amplify their voices, raises awareness about the challenges faced by patients and survivors and acknowledge their strength and resilience. Share a personal motto or quote that inspires you: "The world is your oyster"

Zali Whitaker

With 19 years’ of dance experience, Zali has worked with a variety of professionals in the dance/entertainment industry. She was a professional dancer for the NRL St George Illawarra Dragons, and now does a variety of professional dance work where she has made appearances dancing on ‘The Voice 2022 Promo Shoot’ and ‘MAFS Australia’ working alongside celebrities and TV networks. She has trained in all dance styles with KJ Dance before relocating to complete her training in Queensland. Her career has led her to perform in a variety of musical theatre shows including; 42nd Street, Phantom of the Opera and Carrie the Musical. She also got the opportunity to perform at Disneyland Orlando in 2018. Zali continues to dance professionally, as well as currently teaches dance at Adrenaline Academy of the Arts in Unanderra and is also a Registered Nurse at The Wollongong Hospital. Zali is thrilled to be a part of the Stars of Wollongong Dance for Cancer event for yet another year and cannot wait to dance for such a great cause.  

Stephanie Brunker

I started dancing KJ Dance and I still am. I love a whole range of styles including bass, tap, ballet, lyrical, hip hop, musical theatre, and a few acro tricks. Similar to how most dancers began, my mum noticed my passion from a young age, dancing to any music I hear. So, at the age of 3 she enrolled me in my first dance class, and I’ve been dancing ever since. I still dance in my spare time, and I also teach dance now too. Some advice I’d give to aspiring dancers is to give everything a go with confidence. Don’t hold back when dancing. If you’re dancing for your own enjoyment, then focus on yourself and push yourself to the fullest in each class. Not only will your skills as a dancer improve, but your confidence as an individual that carries with in and out of the studio. My favourite performance as a dancer. Well, I have danced too many amazing dances, but the one that I probably enjoyed performing the most was KJ Dance’s 2022 concert opening, choreographed my Marko Panzic. The dance was performed throughout 2023 at different events and was even performed at Dance for Cancer last year. No, I haven’t done Stars before this is my first year! I’ve always seen the older girls I’ve looked up to at my studio preparing with their dancers each year. I have also previously danced as the opening act for the show with some girls from the studio and have loved the atmosphere and idea of the organisation. As this year I am finally of legal age, I jumped at the opportunity when my dance teacher asked me if I would like to participate this year. A quote that inspires me: “We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are” - Max Degree

Tahlia Leonard

I always wanted to dance since I can remember, and my love of dance began in 2009.  I began dancing at 3 years of age and I have been a proud dancer with KJ Dance from the age of 4. The dance styles I love to perform include: jazz, lyrical, contemporary, ballet and I have also had experience in musical theatre and hip hop. I became a dancer when I was three years old and my passion for dancing has continued. I have performed in many solos, duos, trios, troupes, and local ballet productions. I continue to dance at KJ Dance and am currently studying Dance as one of my HSC subjects for 2024, at St Mary’s College. Anyone can learn technique, but not everyone has the passion, so don’t let anyone ever change your passion, that is the key to a great dancer. In 2016 I performed in my first of many Ballet and Lyrical solos at a local Eisteddfod. I came first in my very first performance and that will forever be a core memory to me. Dancing at Dreamworld in Queensland was another wonderful highlight. This will be my first-year dancing with a partner, in Stars of Wollongong, although I have performed in the opening routine at Stars of Wollongong many times. My moto: All you need is to believe in yourself.


Lulu Garin

I stared dancing at NRG studios and Wollongong High School of Performing Arts. I love dancing Jazz, Contemporary, lyrical, hip hop and Pom. I started out with cheerleading  and then wanted to get into Wollongong high, so I started dancing to audition. I’m still a dancer and I also work within the beauty industry. If I was to give advice to aspiring dancers, it’s not that deep just enjoy performing. My favourite performance was when I performed at IASF Dance Worlds in Orlando Disney World. No, I’ve never done Stars before, I’ve been roped into it with my boss as her dance partner. A quote that inspires me, “there’s no point looking bad when you feel bad” X

Annalise Hare

I have been dancing since I was 3 and grew up competing at many eisteddfods and performing years worth of concerts at a small studio on the South Coast. I moved to Wollongong mid high-school to continue dancing at Wollongong High School of The Performing Arts. My favourite style is lyrical but I have experience in many other styles such as tap, jazz, hip hop, ballet, acro and musical theatre. As long as I’m dancing, I’m happy! My favourite dance experience was travelling America when I was only 9, dancing at Disneyland, Universal Studios and on Broadway. I started teaching at Miss Zoe’s School of Dance in 2022 and have loved sharing my knowledge with many others. I’m excited to be a part of this incredible event and create a performance to fundraise for such an important cause. 

Aliya Hazelton

Aliya has been dancing since the age of 2 and have enjoyed every minute of it.
Aliya spent her high schooling years studying dance at Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts, through this she has participated in Southern Stars Performing Company for the past 5 years, Illawara South East Regional Performing Ensemble and have taken part in multiple Dance Festivals. 

We are excited to have Aliya involved in Stars this year!

Carissa Petrou

I began at 'Bright Stars' at Balgowny, then moved to 'Beckstar' in Figtree, and then moved to KJ Dance (called Kazzajazz back then) just before I turned 4 and have been dancing there ever since (14 years).  I love Ballet (including pointe), hip-hop, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, tap, musical-theatre/Broadway jazz. My Mum enrolled me into dancing at a very young age and I loved it ever since as it developed into a great passion of mine. I teach dance now at KJ Dance and with the Ready Set Dance Program. I am currently in year 12 and I also work for JPS Productions doing promotional work occasionally in shopping centres. Some advice for aspiring dancers, Use criticism to push harder and make yourself stronger, don't compare yourself to other dancers unless you are taking inspiration from them because everyone has a different style, and don't give up when you feel weak or incapable. I have many favourite performances, including the lead role in the ballet ‘Snow White’ with KJ Dance, a duo of ‘Spartacus’ in the ‘At the Ballet’ production in which I was the Princess and a hip-hop troupe I was in last year with KJ Dance called ‘Killers in the Jungle.’ I love the motto "everything happens for a reason; it's either a blessing or a lesson" but one of my favourite quotes is "Only God can judge me" - Tupac Shakur.

Tahlia Davidson

Tahlia is one of Wollongong’s young aspiring Dancer’s. In 2019 Tahlia won a coveted position at the Joffrey Ballets New York Summer Intensive for Jazz & Contemporary Dance & appeared On Broadway in their NYC “Joffrey Spectrum Showcase”! 

At 22, Tahlia has 20 years of Dance training & experience in many dance genres.?She has appeared in both Professional & Amateur theatre productions including “Grease Arena Experience” Harvest Rain Theatre Company, “42nd Street” Moonglow Productions & “Nutcracker” Illawarra On Point Productions. 

Tahlia is thrilled to be a part of Stars of Wollongong Dance for Cancer for 4 years in a row & always happy to give to such a worthy cause so close to her heart.? 




Issy Brightman

 Issy has been dancing at Miss Zoe’s School of Dance since 2011. She has experience in ballet, jazz, broadway jazz, contemporary, acrobatics, hip hop, pointe, lyrical, and solo performances. Issy loves all the opportunities to perform including fetes, flash mobs and concerts. She has been teaching for 5 years now and cannot wait to work with her Star to create an amazing performance!

Laura Smith

Laura began dancing at Miss Zoe’s School of Dance in 2012 and has experience in ballet, pointe, contemporary, hip hop, acrobatics, lyrical, jazz, and solo performances. Laura began her teaching in 2018 and has become a well-respected dancer, teacher, and choreographer. She is excited to be on board for this special fundraiser and is looking forward to putting on a great show with her Star!

Mikayla Okely

Mikayla has a passion for all things dance. She loves to perform and has loved it ever since she began when she was 3 years old.
Mikayla was lucky enough to be cast in Cameron Mackintosh’s ‘Les Miserables’ Australia season in 2015 touring with the cast performing in Sydney/Perth as a child performer. She has also had the special opportunity to work with Opera Australia (La Boheme, Madame Butterfly).

For the past 15 years, Mikayla grew up learning all types of dance styles at R-star performers, Kazzajazz modern dance studio, and Brent street studios, and recently found a love for teaching the younger students at KJ Dance, through styles of Jazz, Tap, and Hip-Hop.

While Mikayla isn't dancing, she loves to learn, and is currently studying a Bachelor of Psychology at the University of Wollongong, with hopes to become a Sports Psychologist in the future.

Mikayla is excited to be a part of this amazing event, and thrilled to be dancing for such an amazing cause!  

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