Fay danced her way into hearts of many

Matamata Chronicle - - Out & About - SAN­DRA HUNTER

Obit­u­ary: Fay Pearl Har­bot­tle Jan­uary 8, 1934 – Septem­ber 15, 2016

It has been said of Fay Har­bot­tle that she was prob­a­bly born wear­ing danc­ing shoes.

Dance was cen­tral to her life for over seven decades, six of th­ese teach­ing as­pir­ing bal­leri­nas, char­ac­ter tap, jazz ballet, ball­room, Latin Amer­i­can and high­land dance pupils.

Fay, born in Te Aroha, be­gan danc­ing when she was three years old and it was to be­come her life’s pas­sion. Given her brother Ge­orge’s skills on the bag­pipes, it is lit­tle won­der that she loved high­land danc­ing.

Such was Fay’s early tal­ent that par­ents Vera and Robert Young tack­led the metal road weekly to Auck­land in their Austin-10, for years to ferry their daugh­ter to danc­ing lessons with the famed Madam Va­lerie Valeska.

The young Fay was an able and ded­i­cated pupil and, by the time she was 15, was teach­ing danc­ing in Te Aroha, as well as work­ing full-time in the town’s shoe shop. Fay was fully qual­i­fied by the time she was 18 and, at 19, met Leon Har­bot­tle – also a piper – at a Cale­do­nian So­ci­ety dance.

As well as com­mit­ted part­ners in life and mar­riage, Fay and Leon were fluid and graceful dance part­ners, win­ning the 1957 New Zealand Rhumba ti­tle at the So­ci­ety of Aus­tralian Teach­ers of Danc­ing Cham­pi­onships.

The pair moved to Mata­mata where they set up Har­bot­tle’s Dance Stu­dio and son Brent re­counts mum van­ish­ing into the stu­dio around 6am each morn­ing to be­gin teach­ing – of­ten not fin­ish­ing un­til af­ter 9pm.

Fay also taught in many town and district halls, tak­ing sons Mark and Brent out of school at 2pm on Mon­days to travel to Te Aroha and her pupils there.

‘‘We didn’t get out of school work, though – we had to sing our times ta­bles there and back,’’ said Brent.

‘‘In the school hol­i­days we were lugged around the coun­try­side to com­pe­ti­tions, but it was all good.’’

Fay and Leon were both skilled and per­cep­tive judges at the Aus­tralasian Ball­room Dance Cham­pi­onships and this en­joy­able task took them to Syd­ney, Mel­bourne and Perth.

Thou­sands of dance pupils, in­clud­ing son Mark and Fay’s own two grand­daugh­ters, passed through her stu­dio over the years. Many of th­ese be­gan as three­year-olds, while her old­est stu­dent was a gen­tle­man in his 80s, who sim­ply wanted to learn to dance.

Many of Fay’s stu­dents went on to ex­cel not only at exam level, but also in the com­pe­ti­tion arena. Some also went on to teach.

The stu­dio was a pop­u­lar gath- er­ing place for cou­ples and groups of friends want­ing to learn or brush up on their so­cial danc­ing skills, with Fay and Leon teach­ing th­ese to­gether.

Safe to say, how­ever, that none ever came close to match­ing the Har­bot­tles’ ef­fort­less el­e­gance on the dance floor.

Leon died in 1995 and, much as she mourned her life and dance part­ner, Fay’s pas­sion for teach­ing did not di­min­ish. In­deed, her con­tri­bu­tion to the art earned her life mem­ber­ship of the Royal Academy of Dance.

Fay is sur­vived by her two sons and four grand­chil­dren.

Fay Har­bot­tle, work­ing with some of the many young stu­dents she taught to dance.

Fay Har­bot­tle

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