Born in Latrobe Valley, a coal-mining, electricity producing region of rural Victoria, Karen grew up in a bustling family of eight children. Her parents made sure to offer each of their children one activity of their own a week, and serendipitously, Karen chose dance. From the beginning she immersed herself in her classes, relishing the time for herself, and finding she had a natural knack for the artform (so much so that she skipped a grade). The experience was one that stuck with Karen, not only the enjoyment she got from dancing, but the nurturing environment, the confidence she gained from her teacher and the self-growth dance provided.
Clearly it was an impression that stayed with Karen for life, as she went on to become a dance teacher, studio owner, educator and mentor herself. Even passing on the love of dance to her son Paul, who in 2014 co-founded Transit Dance alongside his mother – a studio offering full time education and training to contemporary dancers. In just three years Transit Dance has become one of the most respected dance institutions in Australia and has gained a reputation not just for the high calibre of it’s dancers, but also for the exceptional ethos that the school is built around. One that creates strong, happy, confident dancers and well-rounded people.
In addition to her roles as a founder, artistic director and educator, Karen is also a prominent advocate for the value of teaching qualifications and safe dance practices in the Australian dance industry. She was the president of the Australian Teachers of Dancing (ATOD) for over ten years, is a current Director, and in 2012 was awarded life membership to ATOD for her outstanding contributions.
Q: What is the legacy you hope to leave – and the wisdom you wish to impart upon all your students?
KM: I simply wish for them to be the best version of themselves that they can possibly be. To be confident in life and to be kind to others. Their talents will shine through if they have the support of their families and are allowed to find their own determination to succeed in the pathway of their choosing.
After more than four decades involved in shaping the dance industry and the roles that teachers and educators play in the classroom, it seems impossible to fathom the full impact Karen has made through a lifetime of contributions within the Australian dance community - we can only be grateful the today's dancers have such an extraordinary group of teachers and role models forging the way for them, one step at a time.