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Our team

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At Sweet Studios, we have a team of experienced and passionate teachers who are dedicated to providing quality dance teaching. Our teachers have a wealth of knowledge and experience in different dance styles and are committed to helping our students achieve their dance goals.

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Hannah Rutten (Candy)
LNZAMD & Diploma in Commercial Dance

Hannah joined Judith Fuge Dance Studios at the age of 3 years old, starting as a dancer and progressing to teacher. 2024 is her first year as the studio owner/director. 
 
Hannah has trained in NZAMD Jazz, Contemporary, Tap, Hip Hop and RAD Ballet. She has her Solo Diploma with Distinction in Jazz, Contemporary and Hip Hop, and was a NZAMD Nationals finalist in Contemporary and Hip Hop. Following her school years, Hannah went on to study dance full-time at the Whitireia Performing Arts Company (now Te Auaha). She was accepted directly into 2nd year, gaining a Diploma in Commercial Dance. 
 
Upon graduating, Hannah landed her dream job as a professional Dancer, Singer and Aerialist with the Norwegian Cruise Line Company in the USA. She was able to combine her passion of both dance and travel by performing nightly to large crowds, and at the same time travelling to 40+ countries.

Hannah has had involvement in many local projects such as cheerleading for the Hurricanes, performing in Wellington Musical Theatres productions such as Grease (playing the role of Marty), and Glee the Stage Show, modelling for the World of Wearable Arts (WoW) shows, Lord of the Rings, and singing at local events.
 
Hannah is passionate about dance, supporting the youth in our community, and our Sweet Studios families. Her goal is to maintain a safe, supportive and encouraging space for students to thrive, allowing them to give everything a go, and have loads of fun while doing so!

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Rachel Wilson - ANZAMD SD

Rachel began dancing at the age of seven with Katie Haines De Vere Academy of Dance. She had her first professional job at the age of eight performing in the Buzz O Bumble shows and 2ZB radio station.

Rachel trained in RAD Ballet to Advanced level, NZAMD Jazz to Solo Performance Diploma (Distinction) and Contemporary. Rachel is also a NZAMD registered teacher. Rachel was a competitive dancer and competed in many competitions and scholarship classes. She is also a founding member of the AHA Awards, one of the most prestigious scholarship opportunities in the Southern Hemisphere.

Rachel was accepted in to the New Zealand School of Dance for full time training at the age of sixteen and received her Diploma in Dance Performance on completion.

Upon graduation, Rachel worked as a freelance performer mainly dancing with the Royal New Zealand Ballet and Footnote Dance Company.
Over the years, Rachel has danced with some of New Zealand's leading choreographers including Douglas Wright, Michael Parmenter, Paul Jenden, Mary Jane O'Reilly and Tanemahuta Gray.

Rachel has a passion for Musical Theatre and has been involved in many shows as both a performer and choreographer. Rachel choreographed the highly successful production of Mary Poppins for Coasters Musical Theatre in 2021 and The Little Mermaid in 2023.

Rachel has also worked in film and television since childhood. Highlights include The Lord of the Rings and many TV series and commercials both nationally and internationally.

Rachel has been teaching since the age of fourteen and is passionate about sharing her love for the performing arts.

Rachel loves living in Kapiti with her husband and three children and loves being a part of the Sweet Studios family.

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Courtney Gasser-Gray

Courtney has been in love with dance since the age of three, completing examinations in many styles including Jazz, Hip Hop, Ballet and Contemporary. Courtney received many high examination results, dancing her way to National Scholarship Nominations in Jazz, Hip Hop and Contemporary, and was a NZAMD National Scholarship Finalist for Contemporary. She also holds her NZAMD Solo Diploma in Contemporary.

At College Courtney was heavily involved with the arts, and through captaining dance teams at College and at JFDS she was able to develop strong leadership skills that helped carry her through her role as arts captain and as the Kapiti College Head Girl.

After graduating Kapiti college in 2021, Courtney continued to teach at Sweet Studios while working as an HR Coordinator. She is currently starting her second year at Massey University, studying a Bachelor of Arts - majoring in Business Psychology.

Courtney loves nothing more than the freedom dance offers and believes that dance expresses what words cannot. She is so excited to let her creativity flow and pass on her knowledge to the students, while watching them blossom into beautiful strong dancers.

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Charis O'Connor

Charis is from Guildford, UK and trained professionally at Laine Theatre Arts, London and the Royal Ballet School, Senior Associates. She worked on board Norwegian Cruise Lines as a dancer and aerialist as her first job.

Her London West End debut was in Sinatra: The Man and his Music at the prestigious theatre, the London Palladium. She worked in Disney's Tarzan the Musical, Germany for 3 years, as Assistant Flight Captain, aerialist and dancer. In her career, she has also performed in many UK professional dance shows, modelled for the olympics as an athlete, an actress for ITV, a dancer for TV shows, choreographed shows for Holiday resorts, adjudicated competitions, and more…

Charis has taught at various dance schools throughout the UK and NZ, including Te Auaha Wellington training young adults to go on to have a career in dance. Alongside dance, Charis was a high jumper for Great Britain and Northern Ireland competing at the World Youth Championships, and placed 6th in the world.

Since moving to NZ 7 years ago, Charis set up Charis O’Connor Theatre Arts, a dance school in Waikanae Beach to train and inspire young kids. Now being a mum, Charis teaches just a handful of classes and can freelance for other schools to have more family time, and teach a wider range of dancers. She specialises in acrobatics, being Acrobatic Arts qualified and examiner in training. She is also trained in ISTD, and has her teacher qualifications AISTD.

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Jax Hailwood - ANZAMD

Jax has been dancing since the age of 4. Trained in ballet, jazz and contemporary dance. In her time as a performer she has worked with incredible people in the dance, music & film industry.

Jax has been involved in Wellington Musical theatre performing in shows like 42nd Street, Ovation, Razzle Dazzle & Cats. Jax has worked as a dancer in the TV show The Big Night In, at the premier for Lord of the Rings Two Towers, and in a music video for Madonnas gym in Sydney.

Jax has been teaching for a decade in Wellington & Sydney and loves the nurturing environment that Sweet Studios provides.

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Sasha White

Since her early childhood, Sasha has loved to dance and perform.

She trained in jazz with Tracey Bowker Dance School in Kapiti for several years, and was also part of the (self-named) dance group, Joie de Vivre, which focussed on hip hop and modern dance styles. They visited and performed throughout the Wellington area to different congregations and community groups. Sasha has also acted, danced and sung in Community Productions through her local church.

Sasha really enjoys working with pre-schoolers, and for a few years while working for a kindergarten, ran ‘mat’ and music times. This gave her the opportunity to blend learning with fun, using instruments and action songs to grow coordination, and language, and build confidence.

Shortly after her eldest child was born, Sasha began helping with the pre-school music and dance programme ‘Mainly Music’ which she later went on to manage for six years, an involvement she really enjoyed.

Sasha's children began dancing with JFDS, and she became active in the pre-school dance scene, which she finds to be a lot of fun. One of the benefits is she's getting to know so many beautiful families on the fabulous Kapiti Coast! Sasha is married with three children aged 10 to 15 years.

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Natalie Taiaki

Natalie has trained in RAD ballet and NZAMD jazz and tap. She began dancing at the age of 3 at Alison Pond Dance Academy.

Natalie has taught NZAMD tap for the last 6 years and is excited to be joining the Sweet Studios team in 2024.

Natalie is also heavily involved in local theatre in her spare time and is on the committee at Kāpiti Playhouse. She co-directed The Addams Family Musical in 2022 and is looking forward to working with the same production team in 2024 on Oliver.

Natalie has two children who also love dancing and theatre and she enjoys sharing her passion with them.

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Lucy Marshall

Lucy has been dancing at JFDS since the age of 2, training in multiple styles including Jazz, Hip Hop, Tap, Ballet and Contemporary. Lucy achieved many great examination results, including national scholarship nominations in Jazz, Hip Hop and Tap, and a national champion title in DNZM Hip Hop. She also holds her NZAMD solo diploma in Jazz, Hip Hop and Tap and was an NZAMD National Scholarship Finalist in hip hop. Lucy was also a member of the JFDS team who travelled to LA to perform at Disneyland and take workshops from world-class choreographers. 

After completing secondary school, Lucy went on to study full-time dance at Dynamite Studios Australia on the Gold Coast, where she graduated with a Certificate IV in Dance. 

Over the past 6 years, Lucy has been teaching the NZAMD and DNZM syllabus. She was also an assistant teacher for the Ready Set Dance preschool program during her time living in Australia. Lucy has a passion for teaching and loves sharing her knowledge and love of dance with the next generation of young dancers

Hannah Rutten
Rachel Wilson
Courtney Gassr-Gray
Jax Hailwood
Charis O'Connor
Sasha White
Rachel Leigh
Lucy Marshall
Natalie Taikai
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