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Meet the Team

Inspiring the next generation through the joy of dance

Karen Blackburn




Karen received her formative training at The Phyllis & Hilda Skinns Ballet School (Hull) and with Louise Browne (York Scholars). At the age of twelve, she was the British Junior Ballet Champion, a silver medalist at the All England Dance Finals (Sunshine Festival) and runner-up at the IDTA Miss Dance of Great Britain.


Upon graduating, she furthered her professional training at the Urdang Academy of Ballet & Performing Arts and performed as a classical and contemporary dancer for several years, touring nationally and internationally.

As a freelance choreographer, Karen has devised award-winning pieces for many UK dance schools alongside ensemble pieces for youth theatre company productions. In addition, she created the first-ever summer season show at Alton Towers with commercial works for Dansez, Euro Disney and Adidas. 

Karen is a Royal Ballet School Affiliate Teacher, a registered teacher with the Royal Academy of Dance, Rambert Grades and Progressing Ballet Technique (PBT).


She holds an MA in Dance Research for Professional Practitioners and is passionate about holistic, student-centred training that focuses on creativity and individuality and encourages self-esteem through a love of dance.


Karen is also an examiner for The Dang Theatre and Dance Syllabus and an adjudicator with the British and International Federation of Festivals and All England Dance.

Jo Kilminster


Modern & Tap Teacher

Jo Kilminster

Jo trained at the prestigious Laine Theatre Arts in Epsom, where she gained her ISTD Tap & Modern (AISTD) Teaching qualification and her Diploma in Dance and Musical Theatre. Since graduating, Jo has worked as a freelance teacher and choreographer in many leading establishments as well as conducting workshops and summer schools.

During her years of teaching and choreographing, her pupils have consistently achieved outstanding results in examinations and prestigious competitions, including All England, Janet Cram and Marjorie Davies Tap Awards. Many pupils have gone onto vocational theatre colleges and are now working in the West End, touring theatres at home and abroad, and working in TV and film.

Modern & Tap Teacher

Jess Marshall


Early Years, Contemporary & Tap Teacher

Jess Marshall

Jessica-Jo began her training in Essex, UK, at the Angela Allport Performing Arts School before attending the prestigious Royal Ballet School. She continued with her studies after receiving full scholarships to train at Elmhurst School for Dance and the Alvin Ailey School in New York. She was awarded a BA Honours in Arts Management from Middlesex University, later continuing her studies, gaining an MSc in Dance Science.

As a young dancer, Jess gained a place with both the Rambert Junior Company and Tap Attack Company. She has since appeared with the Birmingham Royal Ballet and at the Joan Weill Center, home of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City. Other engagements included performing with Balletto di Milano in Italy, Indigo Blue at the O2 London, The Bristol Harbour Festival, opening the World Gymnastics Championships, and competing on ITV’s Got to Dance.

Jess regularly teaches and continues to perform internationally: A long-standing member of staff at the acclaimed Wilkes Academy and a permanent faculty member and Head of Associates at Tap Attack. Jess has represented Great Britain at the IDO World Tap Championships, has competed as part of the GB tap team, winning several medals and has made a hugely successful transition to GB coach: she now officiates on the IDO Performing Arts presidium as a 7x World Title winning choreographer.

Bex Steer 

BSc (Hons) PGCE

Early Years Teacher


Bex trained from a young age in the core theatre disciplines of Ballet, Tap and Modern and has continued participating in amateur dance classes and performances. Bex is also a European Tap Championship Silver medalist, where she represented Team GB in Prague 2023.


She is currently co-head of the Nursery and an experienced Early Years and Primary School Teacher specialising in Early Years and PE at St Neots Preparatory School. She has been instrumental in organising the school's annual entry into the national J Rock competition. 

Bex is head of KBDA's nursery and preschool dance programmes, running our Saturday mini Jewel Dance Foundation classes.


Bex is a busy mother of three but jumped at the chance to teach KBDA 'Mini' classes when she saw how much her children, who have attended classes for over nine years, loved and benefited from the academy. 

Maria Gregory

BA (Hons) Musical Theatre (1st)

Rambert Grades Teacher & RAD Ballet  Assistant Teacher

Maria Gregory

As a young student, Maria was a London Senior Ballet Associate, Central School of Ballet Associate, and Royal Ballet School Junior Associate. She achieved Distinctions in RAD Ballet Advanced 2, ISTD Modern Advanced 2 and ISTD Tap Advanced 2. Maria graduated from the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London with a First in BA (Hons) Musical Theatre degree and is an Associate of the Royal Academy of Dance (ARAD).  

Throughout her training, Maria received a gold medal at the All England Finals, the Ruth French Musicality Award with the Royal Academy of Dance, and was an ISTD Janet Cram Awards Finalist from 2010 to 2014.

Acting training and theatre credits include Iris Kelly, Fame The Musical (London Dance Company); Juvenile Ensemble, Pasha Kovalev – Life Through Dance, Woking; Posy Fossil, Ballet Shoes (London Children’s Ballet, Peacock Theatre, London), Guildhall School of Music and Drama (Junior Guildhall Drama), Dance Captain and Swing at the Lakes Story Ltd Production of Happy Birthday Peter Rabbit.

James Hall

MA PGCE (Hons) ATCL (Musical Theatre)

Musical Theatre Teacher

James Hall

James specialises in musical theatre and the teaching of singing and performance techniques. His thorough approach means that he creates a relaxed yet professional atmosphere for students, musicians, casts and creative teams and challenges them to explore a range of strategies and tools to get the best out of their voice and performance. He ensures students maintain their individuality, creative musicality and performance integrity.

As well as fundamental singing techniques, James also focuses on interpretation and acting through song to enhance the performance of songs for all styles. James offers assistance with audition preparation and applications for vocational colleges and professional courses. Previous pupils have gone on to study at Arts Educational School, Mountview, Guildford School of Acting, London Studio Centre, ALRA, The Urdang Academy, Italia Conti, The Oxford School of Drama, The Brit School, University of Chichester, and others have gone on to perform professionally around the country and in West End shows.  

James’ skills and experience as an MD include accompanying rehearsals, sight reading, leading vocal warm-ups and workshops, playing keys in orchestra pits, conducting ensembles, Keyboard and Mainstage programming, creating arrangements and composing award-winning music. 

Katie Dodman

BA (Hons) Dance & Musical Theatre (1st)

Acro & Street Dance Teacher 

Katie Dodman

Katie started dancing at the age of five at the Angela Rowe School of Dance in Ipswich, where she completed her RAD Ballet grades up to Advanced 1 with distinction and successfully completed many ISTD Jazz and Modern grades.


Katie also trained as an associate for three years at the Central School of Ballet in London and later joined the Chantry School of Contemporary and Balletic Arts, where she performed on the 'Move It Main Stage' and toured the 'Can You Dance UK' convention as a soloist and performer.

Furthering her training at the London Studio Centre for three years, Katie graduated with a First Class BA (Hons) in Dance and Musical Theatre. During her third year, Katie performed as part of the INTOTO Contemporary Company in their triple bill.

Katie's TV Credits include dance for ITV Good Morning Britain and Loose Women, and she has participated in the Matthew Bourne New Adventures Graduate Programme. Katie's love of teaching began when she assisted with classes at her first dance school growing up.

Sally Brenner


Greek Teacher & Choreographer

Sally Brenner

Sally Brenner is a graduate of Arts Educational Schools, London, fully qualified to teach ISTD Classical Ballet and ISTD Classical Greek. After graduating from ArtsED, Sally danced professionally in Germany for 14 years. She has taught classical Greek at the Ruby Ginner Awards, ISTD Greek Workshops and the BRIT School.


Sally is passionate about choreographing classical Greek. Her pupils have successfully won the All England Finals, ISTD Classical Greek Festival finals and the Ruby Ginner Awards and took ISTD Greek exams up to and including Advanced 1 level. Sally currently teaches Greek technique classes and festival choreography.

Roberta McClelland


RAD Ballet Exams, Classical Coaching and Guest Workshops

Roberta McClelland

Miss Roberta trained with the Gillian Cartwright Schools of Dance on the Isle of Wight, was a Senior Associate of the Royal Ballet School and finalist for Young Dancer of the Year in 1999.


She trained professionally at the English National Ballet School London before continuing her study at the Royal Academy of Dance, where she graduated in 2005 with a 1st class degree in the Art and Teaching of Ballet from Durham University.


Miss Roberta is now a freelance ballet teacher at The Karen Blackburn Dance Academy. She is an appointed distance learning tutor on the RAD CBTS and DDTS programmes for trainee teachers and conducts courses on behalf of the RAD CPD and training departments throughout the UK and abroad.


Miss Roberta has previously tutored on the RAD BABE, PDTC, PDPTC and LRAD courses and freelance teaching at Arts Educational School and Urdang Academy in London. Miss Roberta is also an examiner for the Royal Academy of Dance and founder of Classical Ballet Associates in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Deborah Norris


Contemporary Dance Guest Teacher & Choreographer

Deborah Norris

Upon graduating from Elmhurst Ballet School, Deborah continued her academic studies, gaining a BA Hons Communication Studies – Dance from the University of Leeds and an MA in Dance Studies at De Montfort University and then received a scholarship to pursue her contemporary dance training at the Jose Limón Institute in New York. Deborah is currently a PhD candidate at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and is researching contemporary narrative ballet works through a feminist narratological lens.

As a dance educator, Deborah has taught internationally at conservatoires in Taiwan, Slovakia, Lithuania, and America. With a focus on Contemporary Ballet and Limón-based technique, she has taught across the UK for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and as a guest lecturer at Edge Hill University, Elmhurst Ballet School, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Rambert School for Ballet and Contemporary Dance.

As a choreographer, Deborah has presented works internationally in both educational and professional settings. Youth Dance projects have taken her work to the Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival and UDance Regional and National Platforms.


Her touring dance company, Ballet Folk, has a narrative focus and is embedded in folk traditions and music, with recent premieres staged at Cambridge Folk Festival and Counter Pointe in New York.

Nicole Reeves

BA (Hons)

  Guest & Cover Teacher

Nicole Reeves

Miss Nicole attended Julie Sianne Theatre Arts from age 11, where she trained in all genres and was part of the competition team. At the age of 18, she furthered her training at Vocational College, Doreen Bird Dance College. Nicole has since taught at many different dance schools and colleges based around Surrey, Karen Blackburn Dance Academy being one of her first dance schools to teach and train with. She loves sharing her passion and joy for dance and especially enjoys choreography and seeing her students develop and grow as performers.

Nicole’s credits include First Family Pantomimes (Juvenile Chorus); Billy Elliot (Ballet Girl); Carnival Cruise Lines (Dancer/Singer), and Evolution Pantomimes (Ensemble 1st Cover Snow White/Dance Captain), Mamma Mia Das Musical (Swing).

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