Principal Dancer Sara Garbowski is retiring at the conclusion of our 2023 Season.

After seven years with New Zealand’s national ballet company and more than 15 years performing internationally at the very highest level, RNZB Principal Sara Garbowski will retire from the stage in December.

Sara, who was born and trained in Canada and began her career at the National Ballet of Canada before spending seven years with the Royal Ballet of Flanders, moved to New Zealand to join the Royal New Zealand Ballet in 2017. She was promoted to Soloist in 2019 and Principal in 2021. 

Sara says: ‘After more than 15 years I have decided it is time to retire from my career as a professional ballet dancer and begin a new chapter. I feel very fulfilled with what I have accomplished over these years. I have amazing memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life and have been able to see so much of the world from dancing in Canada, France, Belgium, and New Zealand. 


 Being able to spend the last seven years dancing with the Royal New Zealand Ballet and my final three years as Principal dancer is something I am so proud of. It has been an honour to dance ballet at the highest level in this beautiful country. I am very grateful to all the dancers, staff, and directors I have had over these years who have supported me through it all. There are so many incredible people in this organization that have made such a big impact on my years at RNZB. 

Upon retirement, I look forward to taking a break and giving myself some time to reflect and figure out what life may have in store for me next.  

 A huge thank you to my close friends and family. Surrounding myself with such supportive people has been invaluable. I would especially like to thank my parents, who have been by my side every step of the way, no matter where in the world I was dancing. And to Liam, who has embraced all that is involved with being a dancer’s husband. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to come home to after a long day.’  

During her time at the RNZB, Sara’s performances have encompassed a vast range of repertoire, testament to her artistry, technical skill and dramatic flair. In addition to performing solo and principal roles in classical works, including Aurora and the Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, the Sugarplum Fairy and Dew Drop in The Nutcracker, Myrtha in Giselle and the title role in Paquita, she has shone in dramatic roles such as Ada in The Piano: the ballet and Lady Capulet in Romeo & Juliet. Her contemporary highlights include Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain pas de deux, William Forsythe’s Artifact II and In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, and Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort. 

Sara’s strength and versatility were highlighted in the recent Lightscapes programme, where she performed both the demanding ‘Russian’ solo in George Balanchine’s Serenade and the intensely physical opening pas de deux, Clay, in Alice Topp’s Logos. Just last week, she made her debut as Giselle in the Platinum gala to mark the RNZB’s 70th birthday. 

Sara has worked closely with choreographers on new creations, particularly RNZB Choreographers in Residence Loughlan Prior (Mother in Hansel & Gretel, Neve in The Firebird, Stepsister Madeleine in Cinderella) and Sarah Foster-Sproull (The Autumn Ball) and Andrea Schermoly (Stand to Reason). Her maturity, intelligence and courage as a performer have made her a first choice for choreographers staging existing works for the RNZB, notably Alice Topp (Aurum, Logos), Mário Radačovský (Black Swan, White Swan) and Twyla Tharp (Waterbaby Bagatelles™). 

RNZB Acting Artistic Director David McAllister AC says: ‘It has been such a pleasure to have Sara’s artistry and talent illuminating performances during her time with the RNZB. Her dedication and professionalism have been an inspiration to all who have worked with her, and we will miss her unique qualities in the many ballets that she made her own.’ 

Photo credit: Stephen A’Court..

Sara’s final tour with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, the Ryman Healthcare Season of Hansel & Gretel, opens at Wellington’s St James Theatre on Thursday 26 October, touring to Napier, Palmerston North, Invercargill, Dunedin, Christchurch, Auckland and Takapuna. Audiences wishing to see Sara onstage in her last RNZB tour can look forward to seeing her reprise the beautiful role of the Mother, which she first performed in 2019, together with her debut as the larger than life Ice Cream Witch. 

Sara would like to thank everyone who has supported her at the RNZB, on and off the stage, especially the anonymous donor who has supported and encouraged her for the last three years through the Company’s ‘Partner a Dancer’ programme.