Our Rock Star Team

Simone Mann

Simone Mann

Artistic Director

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Justin Mann

Justin Mann

Co Director/Head of Admin

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Karen-Ann Thomas

Karen-Ann Thomas

Ballet Teacher RAD

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Adele Kahler

Adele Kahler

Teacher/Choreographer

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Courtney Riddle

Courtney Riddle

Head Preschool Program Team Leader

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Alisha Coon

Alisha Coon

Ballet Teacher RAD

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Bella Hawkins

Bella Hawkins

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Jaida Phillips

Jaida Phillips

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Jillian Curran

Jillian Curran

Preschooler Teacher

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Keeleigh Dodds

Keeleigh Dodds

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Matilda Kenny

Matilda Kenny

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Natasha Busby-Veitch

Natasha Busby-Veitch

Dramatic Arts Teacher

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Sophie Donovan

Sophie Donovan

Acrobatics and Tumbling Program

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Adriano Cassaniti

Adriano Cassaniti

Hip Hop Creative Director

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Simone Mann

Simone Mann

Artistic Director

My story, my journey

I started dancing at the age of 2 and by 4 years old I was hooked. All I ever spoke about was dancing, how much I loved to dance and the love I had for my teachers. That's when I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I wanted to teach the art of dance and be the very best teacher I could ever be.

In 1991 Simone’s School of Performing Arts was born and that passion for dance still lives with in me today. The passion of wanting to teach children to be the very best they can be, the passion to see our studio always performing at number one and the passion and joy on our students faces when they achieve a step they have been working so hard on.

I created Simone’s School of Performing Arts because I wanted to make a strong impact on the dance world. I wanted to show my love of dance not only in teaching but teaching great and unique choreography to children of all ages and levels.

I feel like I have been so blessed to be a part of so many amazing, beautiful children’s lives.

I was so lucky to grow up in an amazing studio myself, with my training and mentors being none other than Glenda Yee and Lee Windon, these two extraordinary dance coaches inspired me to be the very best I could be and still do to this day. I trained in every style of dance and the performing arts including singing and drama. Qualified and trained in the syllabus of R.A.D, F.A.T.D & A.T.O.D. learning Jazz, Broadway Jazz, Commercial Jazz, Hip Hop, Funk, Tap, Street Tap, Classical Ballet, Lyrical and Contemporary.

I have won over 65 choreography awards and worked with music producers in America, choreographing and training the all-girls band the “Six Flavours”.

My extent of training has lead me to train and grow very successful dancers in my own studio.

Simone’s School of Performing Arts is recognised for their love and passion in the dance world.

This studio is my life, my baby, my everything.

Simone Mann xx

Adele Kahler

Adele Kahler

Teacher/Choreographer

Adele Kahler joined the SSOPA team in Feb 2017 after moving to the Central Coast from Sydney and she couldn’t be happier! From her first class at SSOPA the student’s work ethic and commitment to dance completely blew her away. She knew she had to work with these kids! Not only are the SSOPA students fierce, young dancers with superb training, they are also some of the nicest kids on the coast. Adele loves being welcomed each week by their contagious energy and charisma. She loves that they can work incredibly hard as a team yet they each have something unique to bring to the studio.

At 27 years of age Adele has lived and breathed dance all her life. With her creative flare, fine eye for detail and her many years of experience to back her, she is a choreographer/teacher not to be missed. Adele has successfully choreographed many winning pieces for competitive dance studios, fulltime courses and high schools all over Sydney and the Central Coast.

Before delving into the teaching/choreography side of things Adele enjoyed a very successful career as a dancer. She completed all her training at Brent Street Performing Arts where she studied all styles of dance, singing and acting. Her high school years were completed through Brent Street’s selective performing arts high school. Adele then went on to fulltime completing Brent Streets Fulltime classical/contemporary course mentored by Sarah Boulter. To finish off her training Adele successfully received her certificate 5 in performing arts. After graduating in 2008 Adele was lucky enough to work and perform alongside some industry greats such as: Macy Gray, Kaz James, Natalie Bassingthwaighte, Tina Arena, Kelly Rowland, Toni Lamond, John Paul Young, Guy Sebastion, Paulini and Olivia Newton John. Adele has appeared on various television shows, video clips, movies, charity events and corporate functions. She also performed numerous times on the Kerri Anne Kennelly Morning Show, Sunrise, MTV, Nickelodeon and FOX 8. In 2012 Adele spread her wings into the contemporary world where she worked with some renowned Australian contemporary choreographers including: Narrelle Benjamin, Mike Van Loon, Kay Armstrong, Marnie Palomares and Anton. In 2016 Adele wished to broaden her knowledge of the mind and body by completing her yoga teacher training through ‘Santosha yoga’ in Indonesia.

On her return she launched her business ‘Lokah Creative’ with a vision to inspire and empower young people going through difficult times through a creative blend of dance, yoga, mindfulness and creative projects. Adele’s latest project saw her direct, choreograph and dance in the film clip ‘Demons’ by one of Central Coast’s leading bands The Sea Gypsies. Adele was featured in Dolly magazine in a yoga role model for teen’s series which focused on mental, physical health and body issues faced by young girls. As a qualified yoga practitioner Adele has introduced yoga in the workplace to many businesses and is grateful to be Central Coast Council’s go to yoga teacher.

With her colourful background Adele makes for an amazing teacher and mentor for the students of SSOPA. She is not only passionate about educating her students in quality dance training, she also genuinely cares about each child’s personal development not just as dancers but as a people. She hopes to empower her students and teach them lessons to carry on throughout life and not just on stage.

Courtney Riddle

Courtney Riddle

Head Preschool Program Team Leader

Courtney is highly experienced in teaching our littlest performers, her bubbly, exciting personality is contagious and the kids enjoy every class. Courtney herself started dancing at Simone’s School of Performing Arts at a very young age, she is a mummy of 2 and a local primary school teacher where she also teaches in the school dance program. Her extensive experience in teaching and junior interaction is what makes our “Ready Set Dance” program so much fun and a great starting block for any dance journey. Courtney’s experience allows her to recognise the individual growth of each child ensuring that all students get the most out of their classes and no student is left behind.

Justin Mann

Justin Mann

Co Director/Head of Admin

Justin has been a big part of Simone's School of Performing Arts since 2000. With extensive experience in business management Justin is instrumental in the day to day running of the studio and "behind the scenes" operations such as organising costumes, uniforms, music, programming, ensuring all students are well looked after and so much more. His passion for Dance and The Performing Arts is easy to see and his support for the students, their families and staff is second to none. Our beautiful studios, our sprung floors, our sound proof vocal room and waiting areas were all built by Justin. Simone's School of Performing Arts is a well-oiled machine thanks to the organised mind of Justin Mann, another reason SSOPA is "The Place to Dance"

Karen-Ann Thomas

Karen-Ann Thomas

Karen—Ann began her dance training at age 2 1/2 and during her formative years trained in Classical ballet, Jazz and Musical Theatre, Tap, Contemporary, Highland and Irish dance as well as Vocal and Speech. Completing exams in B.B.O ballet, jazz and tap as well as same in E.D.T.A (Education in Dance and Theatre Arts), Karen– Ann then moved to Newcastle from regional N.S.W to complete her R.A.D ballet (Advanced 2) and D.E.S National Character Exams under the full– time supervision of the renowned Tess Maunder O.A.M. She then moved on to be coached for Solo Seal by Marie Walton-Mahon R.A.D examiner, founder Progressing Classical Technique.

After a professional career, which spanned dance companies including Sydney City Ballet, Tas Dance, and the West End Dance Co– where she had several lead roles; Prelude in Les Sylphides as well as soloist roles created on her by prestigious choreographers of the time, including the ‘Soothsayer’ in Cleopatra. Karen-Ann returned to Sydney/ Newcastle where she founded her first dance studio –Dance Image Studios, as well as a Cabaret production show– ‘Shattered Image”, to great success.

Karen-Ann then went on to open another studio—Kicks—and continued her freelance choreographic career with both professional theatre productions and workshops for other dance studios within N.S.W and Q.L.D. In 2009 Karen-Ann bought Belmont Dance Centre in partnership, where she continued to teach, choreograph and foster new talent.

Former students-have been accepted into Australian Ballet School, WAPPA, NIDA, (Musical Theatre), London Studio Centre as well as various other full time dance courses. She has had finalists in both the McDonald’s Ballet Scholarship and the Adeline Genee Awards. Her students have gained contracts with Queensland Ballet, Australian Ballet, Sydney Dance Company and Houston Ballet. Karen-Ann has also trained and produced students that have performed in the West End productions of Mary Poppins, We Will Rock You, Wicked and West Side Story. In the Australian productions of Bring It On, Matilda and Priscilla, as well as the Broadway production of Wicked, in 2017. One of her former students was the lead in the West End Production of Jersey Boys, another- one of the four original Billy Elliots in the Australian production of the same name. She has had several students gain contracts with Moulin Rouge, Paris, as well as one who was a lead dancer in Baz Luhrmann’s movie –Moulin Rouge. Former students have had successful careers in theatre and cabaret productions in Japan, Barcelona, Monaco, China and Singapore as well as on cruise ship lines such as Carnival, Princess, Norwegian and Holland- American. They have also enjoyed dance contracts in both Paris and Tokyo Disney (2017 and 2018) and Shanghai and Hong Kong Disney (2018-2019. (All student’s names supplied upon request).

Karen-Ann’s current students enjoy ongoing success at many dance competitions, consistently winning solo sections, championships and scholarships as well as troupe awards. Belmont Dance Centre is one of the Hunter regions most successful studios within the competitive arena, consistently winning Best Troupe awards for mini, small and large troupes as well as Best choreography, costume or “Ultimate” troupe. Three times Karen-Ann’s troupes have received a perfect 100% mark.

Karen-Ann looks forward to watching and encouraging all the many young and talented dancers at this Dance challenge!

“The role of competition is not to win a prize or beat a rival but to pace one another along the road to perfection”

Alisha Coon

Alisha Coon

Ballet Teacher RAD

Alisha began her professional career in the Queensland Ballet’s Professional Year program, where she had the opportunity to perform and tour with QLD Ballet company. She then went on to dance in several ballet and contemporary companies in Europe. Over a span of 7 years, she danced numerous lead roles including Clara in The Nutcracker, Desdemona in Othello and Cinderella. Alisha has worked with many world-renowned choreographers including Itzik Galili, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Alejandro Cerrudo.

Alisha returned to Australia to dance with the prestigious Sydney Dance Company under the direction of Rafael Bonachela. She performed numerous award-winning works with SDC and toured extensively all over the world including America, China, Russia and South America.

Alisha is a passionate advocate for health and wellbeing in the dance industry. She has facilitated Self-Confidence and Stress-Management workshops for hundreds of dancers over the past couple of years. Alisha is a qualified Youth Mentor, Life Coach and also has a Diploma of Dance Movement Therapy. Alisha received her Solo Seal Award and has been a registered RAD ballet teacher for 15 years, teaching and facilitating workshops at many of Australia’s top dance schools.

Bella Hawkins

Bella Hawkins

Bella Hawkins started her dance training at the age of 3, her love and passion for dancing sparked early with jazz and tap. Bella joined the SSOPA team in 2007 and she was very eager to learn and improve her dance skills. Bella has extensive experience in all styles of dance, completing many RAD Ballet exams and Glenn Wood tap exams, she has been highly successful competing in many eisteddfods over the years in both troupes and solos.

Bella has been an assistant teacher/teacher for 6 years, she has experience with teaching students aged 2 years old and up. This experience has taught her lifelong skills such as patience, leadership, communication and problem-solving.

Bella has also had many experiences dancing in various places and events around the world. In 2010, she travelled to the USA with her SSOPA family where she danced at Disneyland. She also participated in workshops at the Millennium Dance Complex where she gained experience learning from some incredible choreographers. Bella has also danced multiple times in both Queensland and Melbourne. In 2019, Bella was invited to perform in the Urban Street Fashion Runway in Sydney where she danced alongside 2019 Australia’s Got Talent finalist Olina.

Being part of the SSOPA team means a lot to Bella. She embraces her co-dancers as her second family and has the utmost respect for teachers, students and parents. She ensures that her presence within the studio brings lots of smiles and happiness. She is supportive of her students and team members to be successful in their endeavours. Bella has learned many skills from the SSOPA community such as teamwork, communication, professionalism, confidence and adaptability which she applies to her everyday life. She encourages everyone to join Simone’s School of Performing Arts and can’t wait for you to join the team!

Jaida Phillips

Jaida Phillips

Jaida has an unwavering passion for dancing and hopes to pursue a career in the performing arts industry. She has been training at Simone’s School of Performing Arts from the age of 6 and for over 10 years she has trained in all genres of dance including, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, RAD ballet, tap and hip hop.

Over this time, Jaida has trained and performed in competition troupes and as a soloist under Simone Mann, with exceptional results in local, state and national competitions, placing highly with phenomenal marks. Jaida has also enjoyed many amazing opportunities with SSOPA including competing at Australia’s Best Dance Crew, performing at the Royal Easter Show, performing at the NRL halftime show in front of a crowd of 20,000 people and many other performances. She has also successfully auditioned and performed as a soloist at Youth In Performing Arts in 2018 and 2019. Jaida’s achievements at SSOPA include being awarded “Highest Achiever” student in 2016 and “Most Attentive and Conscientious” student in 2017.

Outside of SSOPA, Jaida has successfully auditioned for Mitch Michaels “Legacy League” 2019 program, Jason Colemans Ministry of Dance MOD Star program 2019 / 2020 and she is also the 2019 / 2020 Ambassador for Influence Dance Company.

Jaida has been selected to perform in many school-based dance performance groups including Central Coast Regional Senior Dance Ensemble, Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College Senior Dance Ensemble, NSW School Spectacular 2019 and TLSC Tumbi Umbi Campus Wakikirri ensemble, who went on to win the National title in 2018.

Jaida lives and breathes dance and can’t wait to share her passion and excitement with the students at Simone’s School of Performing Arts.

Jillian Curran

Jillian Curran

Preschooler Teacher

Jill found a love for performing early on in life from watching musical theatre shows and Disney movies with her family. Under the tutelage of Karen-Ann Thomas and Jenny Langford, she learnt all styles of dance, focusing on classical ballet, contemporary, jazz and musical theatre. It was with Karen-Ann and Jenny that Jill found her love of teaching, particularly with nuturing the smallest of dancers. She taught primary age ballet, jazz and modern at Belmont Dance Centre under their mentorship for many years, whilst still dancing there herself.

She also has experience teaching a range of ages, through to seniors and adults with Energize Studios in Newcastle. Ever adoring the stage, Jill has been involved in many shows such as Annie, My Fair Lady, Victor/Victoria, The King & I, Shout!: The Legend of the Wild One, The Producers, South Pacific, The Witches of Eastwick, Thoroughly Modern Millie and The Boy From Oz. She also has been lucky enough to perform as a dancer at the CONDA Awards and for various other charity and show events. Jill is so very excited to return to teaching after having her baby daughter, Amelia, earlier this year, and to join the Simone's School of Performing Arts family!

Keeleigh Dodds

Keeleigh Dodds

Keeleigh has been dancing and training at Simones School Of Performing Arts since the age of 5. Keeleigh has established her dance and teaching skills throughout her 11 years of training. Trained in Jazz, tap, ballet contemporary and hip hop Keeleigh has been competing in competitions or 11 years and has won numerous awards both locally and nationally.

Keeleigh has a strong passion for teaching young children and has learned valuable skills through her many years of training in our assistant teaching and leadership program. Working side by side with many of our experienced teachers Keeleigh has established skills that she can use throughout all of her classes to make sure each student knows they are dancing in a safe and fun environment.

Keeleigh has been given many opportunities during her dancing career, she recently performed in a tribute music video for Janet Jackson. She has also performed in the HRIS cultural dance festival and was a featured dancer throughout this festival. Keeleigh has recently represented our studio at the Australia’s Best Dance Crew. She has also performed at multiple televised football games and at The Royal Easter Show.

Keeleigh enjoys being able to assist her students achieve their goals she also appreciates that all children are individual and progress in different ways. Keeleigh’s constant positive attitude towards the children ensures the students have a great experience in each class.

Next year Keeleigh will completing her HSC in Dance and Child Studies for years 11 and 12. She is looking forward gaining more knowledge through these studies that will help her grow as a teacher. Keeleigh is excited and enthusiastic to share her passion of dance with her students.

Matilda Kenny

Matilda Kenny

Matilda has been training with Simone’s School of Performing Arts since the age of 4 and has grown and developed her dance, musical theatre and teaching skills over the past 12 years. She has completed multiple levels from Glenn Wood Tap Syllabus gaining High Distinction in all levels completed.

Matilda has also been assistant teaching with us since 2016 and has taught multiple Glenn Wood levels over the last couple of years.

Matilda has a strong passion for tap and is constantly furthering her tapping knowledge by working with choreographers from The Tap Pack, The Tap Dogs and International Choreographers.

Matilda has recently performed at Australia’s Best Dance Crew with us and participated with their workshops. Since 2015 Matilda has participated in the NSW Schools Spectacular and for the past 2 years has been a featured tap dancer. Matilda has also performed at multiple televised football games and at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

In 2018 and 2019 Matilda competed at Sydney Tap Festival winning a scholarship to the 2020 series of Sydney Tap Festival from 2 international tap choreographers.

In 2019 Matilda auditioned for YIPA (Youth and Performing Arts), gaining a spot in their showcase with her tap solo. Matilda also performed in her first musical at Wyong with the role of a featured tapper/dancer.

For the future Matilda is currently completing her HSC in Dance and Assistant Dance Teaching for years 11 and 12. Matilda is really looking forward to her future years as a teacher and choreographer and can’t wait to spread her knowledge with her students.

Natasha Busby

Natasha Busby-Veitch

Dramatic Arts Teacher

Natasha is a professional singer, actress and performer, specialising in musical theatre and contemporary voice. Natasha graduated from The Academy of Music and Performing Arts (AMPA) with a Bachelor of Music (performance) in 2017. Natasha has performed principal roles in musicals such as: Rent, Fame and Chicago. Natasha has also performed solo and with live bands at clubs and festivals throughout Sydney and the Central Coast. Natasha has a deep passion for teaching and performing and is always striving towards success.

Sophie Donovan

Sophie Donovan

Acrobatics and Tumbling Program

Sophie Donovan is originally from Western Australia. She began her dance training at the age of 4 in Tap, Jazz & Ballet.

Sophie has grown up training in all styles of dance but her most favourite styles would have to be Acrobatics and tumbling.

Sophie has received her Certificate IV in Dance and her Diploma in dance and is now working towards her advanced diploma in dance.

Sophie is also a certified "Acrobatic Arts" teacher.

At the start of 2019, Sophie was in the circus show “Infamous” with Joseph Ashton Circus. She was cast as a featured dancer and loved the thrill of performing every night with such a talented cast.

She has also been apart of Le Freak -forbidden Fruit Artistically directed by Keith Hawley. As well as attending Australian dance festival showcase and being a Grand Finalist on Australia’s Got Talent in 2019.

On the side of her training, Sophie has been sharing her knowledge with teaching acrobatics, tumbling and contortion. She enjoys helping her students gain strength in this advanced style and loves watching her students achieve their goals.

Sophie’s greatest passion is the performing arts and she’s thankful everyday for all the amazing opportunity’s she has already had and wants the same for her students.

Adriano Cassaniti

Adriano Cassaniti

Hip Hop Creative Director

Adriano is one of the best Hip Hop choreographers in the business. Hip Hop is his absolute passion and his teaching style is both exciting and encouraging for his students. Adriano started his performing arts journey at a very young age.

He achieved his Diploma in Musical Theatre CUA50213 and Certificate IV in Dance CUA40113 with flying colours and continues to study the performing arts industry as new styles and ideas develop, keeping him ahead of the game.

Adriano has had a highly successful Theatre, Live Performance, TV and Film career which includes 2008 - "Simmer Sauce" Old El Paso TVC (100%) 2009 - Graeme Murphy's "The Nutcracker" (Ensemble), 2014 - "Brittle Bones" Short Film (lead), "Ari" Short Film (extra), Sydney 6's Dance Team (featured dancer) and Sydney Kings Basketball Half Time Show (dancer), 2015 - "The Principal" SBS TV (extra), "Leaving The Family" Foxtel TVC (mob boss apprentice), 2016 "Kicks" Short Film (lead), 2017 -The School Feature Film (extra "Weeper"), BBL "Syd's Crew" (featured dancer), Sydney 6's Dance Team (featured dancer), NRL Final Half Time Show (featured dancer) and Jeans for Genes Gala Dinner Performance (dancer), 2018 - Sydney 6's Dance Team(featured dancer), 2019 - “West Side Story“ Handa Sydney Opera House (Anxious).

Currently, Adriano is a member of the outstanding dance crew “Pretty Boy Swagg” led by the amazing Chaz Cummings. “Pretty Boy Swagg” were semi finalists of Australia’s Got Talent in 2019.

We are thrilled to have our 2020 junior and senior hip hop crews in the very safe hands of Adriano and the Pretty Boy Swagg team.

This is a place to be motivated to achieve your goals, to strive for excellence, to make friends forever and always call SSOPA your family.

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