To Dance With My Father Again

Written by: Fiona Fraser

When Kirby Selchow describes how Tutus on Tour connects people, she can attest to it on a very deep and personal level.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet soloist left her whānau in Australia to take up a position with our most celebrated dance company in 2014. She was just 20 years old, and hadn’t spent a lot of time with her father since her parents split when she was still a child. “I’d become very independent,” she begins. “I joined the Australian Ballet School as a 16-year-old, and went from family life in Perth to living in a one bedroom apartment in Melbourne on my own. I grew up very quickly!”

With her dad having moved to New Zealand’s Far North after the marriage ended, nobody was more surprised than Kirby to find him in the audience of a Tutus on Tour show, six years ago in Kerikeri. “It was a super emotional night for me,”

Kirby recalls. “It really reconnected us and now, we speak nearly every day.” Kirby says she began life as a musical-obsessed kid with “dreams of performing on Broadway”. But a swift segue into ballet saw a stellar rise through the dancing ranks – and when former RNZB Artistic Director Ethan Stiefel travelled to Melbourne to guest-teach, he recognised her potential, offering her a position in New Zealand.

Kirby jumped at the chance but says full-time dancing is hard work – not just the physical demands, but the lifestyle that accompanies it. “We have heaps of fun, but we also spend a lot of time looking after ourselves and our bodies – feeding ourselves well, getting regular physio and massage, keeping up our strength and going to bed early.”

It’s little wonder, then, that her RNZB colleagues have become family. “It’s such a tight knit group and everyone is welcoming and warm,” Kirby tells. “And because we travel so much, we know each other really well, working together from 9am until 6pm, then sharing hotel rooms or minivans as we go from place to place.”

Wānaka is always a favourite stop for Kirby during her Tutus tour – and she loves the enthusiasm of the Nelson audience and the steampunk atmosphere in Oamaru. But it’s South Auckland that holds a special place in her heart. “In Manukau, we perform for children with special needs.

I find that really beautiful.” So much so, that Kirby has raised her hand to help out in the RNZB’s philanthropy department, and sees a permanent role within that team as a natural next step once her performance career is complete. “I love this country,” she enthuses. “I can’t wait to get my Kiwi passport!” 

Tutus on Tour’s 2024 season features excerpts from Swan Lake, Shaun James Kelly’s Prismatic and Clay by Alice Topp. Tickets for Tutus on Tour are on sale from 4 December.

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