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Sarah Fitzsimons will open the doors to her new dance school on February 7. Photo: KELLEY TANTAU

Classical ballet to country living

A classical percussionist and a former ballerina will “amuse” their new community as they try to become farmers in Thames.
Sarah Fitzsimons is the new owner of the Thames Hauraki Dance Theatre, formerly the Thames Hauraki Ballet Theatre, that had its base in Turua.
Her husband is Jeremy Fitzsimons, the youngest son of the late Jeanette Fitzsimons, who was a former Green Party co-leader and environmental trailblazer.
She passed away in March, 2020, at the age of 75 after spending the day working on her farm up the Kauaeranga Valley.
“We were very close to her and she spent a lot of time with us when she was in Parliament in Wellington, and we would come up every holidays,” Sarah told The Profile.
“We always said we would come help look after the farm when she and Harry were too old, and our plan was to do that in three year’s time, but when she passed so suddenly three years ago, we realised we needed to be there now.”
Sarah, who originally trained in Sydney before going on to the Royal Ballet School in London, emailed former Thames Hauraki Ballet Theatre owner Pauline Germon to ask about casual teaching positions.
An offer to instead buy the school was presented.
“I said: ‘Okay, sure’ and we’ve been working on that the last 18 months, and I hope now that I can hold [the studio] in the same acclaim she has for many years.”

The late Jeanette Fitzsimons. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

She moved to Wellington in 2001 for a job teaching at the New Zealand School of Dance, and it was in the city where she met her future husband, Jeremy.
“My flatmate was choreographing a show for [percussion group] Strike, which my husband founded, and she said: ‘The boys are all a bit poor, should we have them over for lasagne’… and that’s how we met.”
Now the two creatives will take on a different challenge: learning the rural ropes from Jeanette’s husband, Harry Parke, at Pakaraka Farm.
“My husband is a classical percussionist and I’m a ballet teacher, and so we are going to amuse the community as we try to be farmers,” Sarah said with a laugh.
“The idea is that we somehow combine both, but that might be easier in our minds.”
Pakaraka Farm is an off-grid section, with 215 acres of diverse agro-ecological projects, including 180 acres of regenerating native bush.
It may be a stark contrast to the grand theatres Sarah has danced in, but she told The Profile she was excited to be realising both her classical and country dreams.
“I’m really looking forward to having my own dance school; I’ve always wanted that,” she said. “I used to teach my sisters in the garage when I was little.
“I’ve also always wanted to be closer to nature and live rurally, it’s just another dream I’ve always had, so we’re really lucky and privileged to follow on with what Jeanette and Harry have created.”
Sarah and Jeremy’s 15-year-old daughter, Izzy, has also made the move up from Wellington. Their son, Jasper, 17, is starting his tertiary education at Otago University.
The family officially moved to Thames on December 17, the date of Jeanette’s birthday, and Sarah will open the doors to her new dance school on February 7.
“I believe really strongly that dance should be for everyone and it should be fun – all shapes, all sizes – and I’m really excited about that.”
DETAILS: For information about the theatre or to contact Sarah, visit: