Ballet star quits for pet shop dream
The star of ballet reality show The Secret Lives of Dancers has quit performing to pursue her dream of working in a pet shop.
Katie Hurst-Saxton, 25, resigned from the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company when the show's last episode - featuring her relationship with fellow lead dancer Michael Braun - went to air two weeks ago.
The tension between the couple, on-stage and behind the scenes, became a main theme for the show, which was filmed in Wellington earlier this year.
Braun has also left the company, to be closer to his children in Australia, but Hurst-Saxton said his departure was not the reason she quit.
"I've had serious hip problems that have been going on for more than a year. I've just had enough of the pain," she said.
"It will be a shame and it makes me sad but I've made the right decision."
Hurst-Saxton is the longest-standing dancer in the company and the youngest performer to be accepted into its elite ranks.
She started dancing ballet at age 5, then took up full-time classical training at age 12 and was given a contract by the RNZBC when she was just 16.
"I was already a performer then. I love performing on stage, holding the audience in the palm of my hand," she said.
She said loved being part of The Secret Lives of Dancers, despite not realising her relationship would feature so heavily in the series.
"I am still gutted and upset about what happened between me and Michael. But I talk to him every day. He's still my best friend," she said.
"I loved having a relationship in the company, loved it."
The ballerina was confident there were enough talented dancers in the company to replace both of them.
"We were principal dancers but there are others there who are more than capable to take over. The company is very strong at the moment," she said.
Once the current ballet season is over, Hurst-Saxton plans to head to Melbourne, and hopes to get a job in a pet shop while studying photography.
"People I'm not that close to were like 'What! A pet shop?' but I'm happy," she said.
"I absolutely love animals."