Commercial Dance Tutors

Dance Tutors

Academic Tutors


Dance Tutors

Liesl Eksteen, Commercial Dance Lead Tutor, Bachelor of Applied Arts

Liesl Eksteen, a past graduate from Whitireia completing her Bachelor of Applied Arts in 2014. Having trained in dance all her life, Liesl succeeded as a professional company dancer using her talents to travel the world choreographing and performing in numerous television shows, corporate floorshows, music videos, and musicals. Living in London for two years, Liesl was able to expand her opportunities by teaching and performing in the UK. She was then given the opportunity to move to India for a six-month Bollywood dance contract working with world-class choreographers in Bollywood movies, music videos, and VIP events. She also recently was the Resident Choreographer for Madagascar the Musical with GMG Productions touring NZ.  

Liesl is now enjoying passing her knowledge on to others. As the Lead tutor of Commercial Dance at Te Auaha, she tutors, mentors, works administrations, and is involved in networking the students into the industry during their studies. Liesl still involves herself in New Zealand-based performances such as World of Wearable Arts, touring shows, and local corporate work. 


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Anne Anderson, ARAD, DIP Classical Ballet

Anne Anderson, ex-principal of the RNZB Company toured extensively in NZ and overseas including Europe, China, America, Australia and England. Favourite roles were mainly the classics – Juliet, Odette/Odile, Giselle, Cinderella and Ophelia to name a few.

Former course coordinator for the Commercial Dance Course at Whitireia, Anne now enjoys tutoring both straight classical and neo-classical dance. She enjoys choreographing new material and staging traditional ballet works when required. She is seen adjudicating at competitions and has taught classes for the Alana Haines Australasian Awards where she enjoys the up and coming talent. Anne is currently a freelance tutor working at Te Auaha, Chilton Ballet Academy, Associate programme NZSD and giving private tuition also. She continues to assess the fulltime students at NZSD.

Retired from performing Anne is passionate about passing on her knowledge and experience.


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Vivencio M. Samblaceno, Jr., F.I.D.T.A.

Vivencio, (Jun as he is also known by), trained in Manila, Philippines and danced professionally with the Philippine Ballet Theatre. He later joined the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company and performed classical, neo-classical, and contemporary works in Australasia, Europe, America, and Asia for twenty years as a soloist and principal.

He received his Fellowship degree with distinction under the International Dance Teachers' Association UK and is a Mutually Recognised Teacher of the Royal Academy of Dance. He has an Adult and Tertiary Teaching qualification through the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.

He also teaches at the New Zealand School of Dance and the Chilton Ballet Academy. He has taught adjudicated classes at the Alana Haines Australasian Awards and was an artistic judge at The Royal Academy of Dance Solo Seal Award. Jun holds Ballroom, Latin American and New Vogue NZ titles and continues to train and dance competitively.

He has been teaching Classical Ballet, Pilates and Dance Styles for the Commercial Dance and Musical Theatre courses for over ten years and has a passion for mentoring and passing on his knowledge.

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Jo Marie Mills, (A.I.S.T.D, DIP. BAPPA, EQUITY, I.D.T.A, NZAMD)
Dancer/Choreographer/Director/Adjudicator/Dance Tutor

Jo was born and raised in London, England. At the age of three, she took her first Ballet class and has never looked back. 

Jos' first professional contract was at the age of nine in the Pantomime, Aladdin.

Later she successfully auditioned and attended Performers College for three years on the Musical Theatre Course, where she obtained her Diploma and teaching qualifications in (I.S.T.D). During this time, Jo also studied Ballroom and Latin dance and participated in many competitions, including the World Championships.

After graduating Jo embarked on a fifteen-year performing career. She has been lucky enough to professionally perform in musicals, on numerous cruise lines, in dance companies, pop videos, movies, sports events and various tradeshows all around the world.

Jo spent many years performing and teaching outside of the U.K in the U.S.A, Greece and Israel and now calls Wellington her home, with her husband and their three beautiful children.

Jo went on to gain her Bachelor degree in Applied Arts after she retired from performing.

For the past fifteen years and to the present day, Jo has been a Senior Tutor on the Commercial Dance course at Whitireia/Te Auaha, where she shares her knowledge of dance and performance skills, directs shows, assesses and choreographs for events with the fulltime tertiary students.

Jo is also a freelance choreographer who has had her work performed professionally by dancers internationally as well as here in New Zealand. Her choreography credits include dance genres such as Jazz, Ballet, Contemporary, Musical Theatre, Tap and Latin.

Jo has adjudicated at competitions across New Zealand and has guest tutored at various dance schools, summer schools and events in the Wellington region.

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Leigh Evans, Director, Choreographer, Tutor

Trained in RAD Ballet and American Jazz, Leigh has been sharing her love and passion for performance for more than 35 years and is recognized as one of New Zealand’s foremost Choreographers, Musical Theatre and Jazz tutors.

Leigh was the original Course Coordinator for the Commercial Dance Course in 2001 and has watched it develop and strengthen into the successful course it is today.

For 20 years she has taught jazz, musical performance and hopes a good dollop of common sense to the commercial dancers!

She also devises, directs and guides the 2nd year dancers to their graduation performance at the end of every year.

Leigh is also passionate about Musical Theatre and has directed and choreographed many successful Musical Theatre and Stage Productions throughout the country together with TV and Film work.

Leigh also tutors on the Musical Theatre course and Directs their annual Musical.

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Esther Forsyth Robinson, ANZAMD (SPD)

Esther Forsyth Robinson trained at Wellington Performing Arts Centre to complete her Diploma in Commercial dance in 2007. After graduating Esther spent 2 years living and working in Melbourne and getting involved with the Australian dance scene. Since that time, she has travelled the world performing in Australia, across America and Japan. Credits include Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea and Princess Cruises. Esther loved her time working on Cruise ships and has been lucky enough to visit almost all the continents and see many countries. She feels blessed to have lived a life where she was able to dance and travel at the same time – her two biggest passions.

Esther Retired from performing in 2014 to focus on teaching in New Zealand. She loves working with the students at Te Auaha, especially those that aspire to have careers in the dance industry. Esther is passionate about dance and hopes to instil this same passion and love for the arts in her students. Her wish for them is that they will leave the course as strong, hardworking, versatile dancers ready to tackle the ever-changing dance world.

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Sharn Te Pou

Singer Song-Writer and freelance Professional Dancer Sharn Te Pou is a creative artist based in Wellington.  Trained in Jazz, Tap, Hip-Hop and Contemporary, Sharn has been dancing for over 20 years and has performed both locally and internationally in a number of shows including the roller-skating musical Starlight Express the New Zealand tour and resident show in Germany and the contemporary aerial theatre show Tiki Taane Mahuta with NZ artist Tiki Taane. From writing and releasing original music, performing in music videos and musical theatre shows to the World of Wearable Art, acting and stunt work, former winner of PACANZ National young performer of the year award for Jazz and Contemporary at age 17, Sharn is a jack of all trades and loves to express his creative energy through many different art forms. 

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Emily Down, NZAMD Jazz (adv. dist). NZAMD Tap (adv.dist), NZAMD

Emily trained in Wellington in RAD Ballet and NZAMD Tap and Jazz, before heading to Melbourne to study full-time Dance and Performing Arts.

Emily’s first professional job was at age 10 when she performed with 2ZB radio station in the Buzz o Bumble Show in Wellington.

After graduating, Emily performed as a professional dancer in various different musicals, pantomimes, operas, television, film and corporate events, within the UK, Europe and Australia.

Some of her credits include Neighbours, King Kong (the movie), Top of the Pops, The Footy Show, In Melbourne Tonight, The Today Show, Hey Hey its Saturday, 42nd Street, Cabaret, Snow White, Dick Whittington and La Traviata (the opera).

Upon returning to New Zealand, alongside raising 3 children, she has choreographed for and taught for multiple dance schools around Wellington. She is a Jazz and Tap tutor on the full time Commercial Dance and Musical Theatre Courses at Te Auaha, Institute of Creativity.

Emily’s choreography credits include Hurricanes Cheerleaders, NZ rugby sevens, musicals, award-winning routines for local competition students and graduation seasons for Te Auaha and Whitireia full time courses.

Emily has adjudicated and taught workshops at competitions all around NZ.

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Emma Maddock

For Emma, dance is true fulfilment. She began her training in ballet and jazz and progressed into full-Time commercial dance training in Melbourne, Australia where she was able to connect with a variety of experts in the field of contemporary and commercial dance.

 Highlights from her performing career include various music videos, floor shows, live events, and short films. Her relevant experience in the industry has grown her into the tutor she is today. Since returning to New Zealand Emma has focused strongly on expanding her teaching technique to involve effective, safe, and practical knowledge to share with her students with a strong focus on technique and performance. Emma is certified in barre fitness, TRX suspension training, Aerial Yoga, Progressing Ballet Technique and Pilates Stick.

 Emma is committed to challenging her students to push their creative boundaries, to find joy in movement and to achieve their best potential.

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Caitlin Peetz, Bachelor of Arts

Caitlin Peetz, a local and experienced hip hop dancer and teacher, has taught at Whitireia since 2015. Caitlin has travelled nationally and internationally for competitions both as a dancer and as a coach. She competed with Infinite Dance Crew at the 2013 Hip Hop Unite Championships in Europe, where they placed first in the adult division. More recently, Caitlin has assisted with choreography in numerous dance shows in Wellington for dance studios, dance companies and primary schools. Having had many mentors from the beginning of her dance journey, she has gained knowledge of a variety of styles within the genre of Hip Hop dance and likes to use this understanding of Hip Hop culture to ensure her choreography will continue to be relevant for years to come.

Caitlin actively continues to extend her dance knowledge through her own training to ensure students gain comprehensive knowledge on all things Hip Hop. She is a fresh, passionate, and energetic mover, committed to working with her students to develop their style, confidence and love for dance. 

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Jo Hodgson

Jo holds Performance Certificates in Voice (Trinity) and Oboe (Royal Schools) and has taught music and singing for well over 20 years, bringing musical fun to hundreds of pre-schoolers and teaching singing to a range of students around the Wellington region, both in groups and individually.
Jo was a foundation member of the New Zealand Secondary Students Choir and a member of the New Zealand Youth Choir and Voices New Zealand chamber choir. She is currently co- musical director of Wellington Young Voices Children’s Choir.
A passion for music theatre saw Jo perform with London School of Music Theatre’s Showstoppers; tour New Zealand in Stetson groups, Evita; taking on roles such as, Grizabella in Cats for Wellington Musical Theatre; Mrs Noah in NZ Opera’s production of Britten’s Noye’s Fludde; Octavia in a Jenden and Farr collaboration, The Nero Show at Circa; Hida in Red Scare Theatre's premiere production of The Bone Thief, and most recently musical director for Stagecraft’s production of Bare: A Pop Opera and ‘Silver Linings’ with Wellington Footlights.
It is special to be sharing my knowledge and skills with the Commercial dancers and Stage and Screen actors at Te Auaha and working alongside the amazing tutors here to bring out the best in these students.

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Academic Tutors

Donna Banicevich Gera, MA(Scriptwriting), BA(Hons), Adv.Dip.CreativeWriting, Cert.DocumentaryWriting, InternationalCert.Theatre Directing

Donna is a writer, tutor, theatre reviewer and script advisor. She currently teaches Contextual Studies, Contexts & Practice, Creative Enterprise, and Body of Work at Te Auaha, Whitireia New Zealand.

Her creative work has been produced for radio, page, stage, and screen, in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Spain, Austria, USA, and Alaska. Her writing includes Anton's Women, Land Without Sundays, Hunterville, My Name is Ruhi, Come unto Me, The Captain's Curse, Baby Face, Ella and Will, Tarara Child, Longing, Rip, Pressing your Face in Feathers, Pigeons. In 2015 she worked as script advisor on six New Zealand short films. She is a current committee member of the Playwrights Association of New Zealand (PANZ) and writes a bi-monthly column for their newsletter.

Her main area of interest is telling migrant stories, exploring themes of lost identity, and developing work with a strong multi-cultural feel through her production company Migratore Worx. She has held artists’ residencies in Spain and France, and presented at workshops, seminars and conferences in New Zealand, Australia, Croatia, Italy, Austria, USA, and Alaska, enabling her to acquire knowledge and write outside her New Zealand framework.

Donna’s research interests include scriptwriting for business, storytelling in professional practice, and creative activism through art.

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Phillip Silverman

Phillip teaches on the professional practise papers which have a focus on injury prevention, management, and general wellbeing.  Phillips background is mainly in massage, exercise science, and rehabilitation, where he has worked both in a teaching and clinical role with dancers, including NZRB. Phillip has a creative interest in sculpture, obtaining a scholarship to attend the New York Academy of Art in 2016, and glass work where he obtained the emerging glass artist award from the New Zealand society of glass artists 2018.

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