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Francesca Montanaro ARAD RAD RTS

Francesca completed her  training at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance and the Central School of Ballet in London, graduating with majors  in Contemporary and Classical ballet. She then held positions as a professional classical dancer in Germany for 14  years, dancing as a soloist in major classical ballets such as "Graduation Ball', Don Quixote" and Romeo and Juliet. She also choreographed for musical theatre productions such as 'My Fair Lady'. Her last dancing appointment for five years until 1999 was  at the Theater Vorpommern. She was also appointed  as head of dance for the Conservatorium of Music in Stralsund in 1997. In 1999 the opportunity arose as a sponsored teacher at La Vive Studios  in Port Macquarie and she moved to Australia. Francesca  has been the Principal  of the Harbour Performing Arts Centre since 2007.

Merryn Gould was born in Sydney, Australia. She began studying classical ballet (RAD) at the age of six, under the guidance of Janece Graham and Tanya Pearson. She participated in many competitions including the prestigious Prix De Lausanne, Switzerland. In 1988, she was offered a traineeship in Banff, Canada where she was fortunate to study with Victoria Simon (Balanchine Répétiteur), Brydon Paige and Brian McDonald. At the completion of the program Merryn was to be awarded two scholarships, 1st to San Francisco Ballet School, USA and the 2nd to École Supérieure de Danse du Québec, Montréal Canada, - Merryn accepted Canada and developed under the watchful eye of Master teacher Daniel Seillier (Paris Opera Ballet). Merryn went on to dance professionally with Les Grande Ballet Canadiens, Boston Ballet, Ballet Theatre of Boston and upon return to Australia; Opera Australia. Whilst at Opera Australia, Merryn worked with a diverse range of choreographers that included Stephen Page, Gideon Obarzanek and Barry Moreland.

Merryn has successfully taught abroad and in Australia, serving as both company member and dance educator and believes she is a dance artist who loves to create a supportive, inclusive and performance ready dance community. Merryn is nurturing and encouraging but firmly demanding of her students. She is able to develop in them an appreciation for both artistic expression and technical details.

Kirsty - Lee Mears grew up in Coffs Harbour and was a student of HPAC from the age of 4, completing her RAD examinations up to Advanced 2 under the direction of Francesca Montanaro. Kirsty moved to Melbourne in 2014 to begin her Diploma of Elite Dance Performance at Danceworld Studios and completed it at Transit Dance (2015), under the tutelage of Paul Malek, Daniel Jaber and Amy Hollingsworth, majoring in Contemporary Dance.

Kirsty is a Diploma qualified Pilates Instructor and has a special interest in dance science and safe dance, wanting to offer her students the most efficient ways to develop their technique, based on current dance research . Kirsty is a level 1 Progressing Ballet Technique (Marie Walton-Mahon) recognised teacher and has completed Level 2 Training Flexibility and Mobility (Lisa Howell B.phty)
She looks forward to furthering her knowledge of classical ballet instruction by undertaking the Royal Academy of Dance's (RAD) teacher training course (Cert in Ballet Teaching studies) in the near future.


Pia Montanaro trained as a ballet teacher at the Royal Academy of Dancing, London. After graduating she took up a teaching post in Turin, Italy and then in Milan as production assistant to the choreographer Louis Falco. Moving to Verona, she opened her own school and in 2005 formed the CMT Musical Theatre Company, which she ran and directed until 2018. The company has won many awards in Italy for excellence in the Performing Arts. In August 2016, the CMT Musical School was nominated a “Matilda the Musical Italian Academy” preparing children for the Italian version of the award-winning musical in partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company, London. Pia has been in Australia since 2018 and hopes to remain in this beautiful country permanently.


Miss Rhi has lived on the northern beaches of Coffs Harbour for over 16 years, her love of dance has seen her compete, teach and choreograph in many styles including ballet, jazz, contemporary, tap and hip hop.
In 2019 she travelled throughout Europe and Asia training with leading choreographers and directors as well as teaching at creative conventions in London and Amsterdam.

Rhi has completed her TapAtakOz Professional Teaching Development Certificate and is currently studying a Cert IV in Management and Dance.
We are excited to welcome Rhi to HPAC as a hip hop and junior jazz teacher.

NINA VERETENNIKOVA’S career spans performance, choreography, direction and teaching in both dance and film. An Australian Ballet School graduate she was a founding member of the Sydney Dance Company under Graeme Murphy’s direction touring extensively in seminal Murphy works both nationally and internationally. Throughout her 13 years with the company Nina performed works by Australian and International choreographers (Leigh Warren, Graeme Watson, Don Asker, Barry Moreland, Kai Tai Chan, Garth Welch, Paul Mercurio/Kim Walker, Louis Falco, Ralph Lemon and Ohad Naharin) and developed her own choreographic work – Late Show, Radar, (Risks 2 Workshop) Annie Lennox for Murphy’s Sirens, and a sequence for the film of Nearly Beloved. She was nominated for Green Room Awards for Best Female Dancer in Principal and Supporting Roles for After Venice and Afterworlds. Nina holds a BA degree in Film and Television from The Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) specialising in Direction. Credits include Tales from a Suitcase produced for SBS. Nina has held teaching positions with Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre, NAISDA and was Rehearsal Director for Bangarra Dance Theatre for Stephen Page’s productions of Skin, The Dreaming, Corroboree and international tours to New York, Washington DC, Hawaii and Noumea. A certified teacher in Conditioning with Imagery Training, Gyrotonic® and Gyrokinesis® Nina has been an Academic Staff member at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne from 2002 - 2020 teaching, classical ballet and a range of somatic practices. She maintained an interest in filmmaking, recording and editing Dance productions for their archives. Nina has twice been nominated for Lecturer of the Year Awards. In 2019 Nina was one of 10 SDC alumni invited to perform in US50 choreographed by Gideon Orbarzanek to celebrate the company’s 50th Anniversary.
Steven is our  seriously  awesome TAP teacher.