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World famous ballerina knew she would turn 100

Elsie Seguss

Dancing: Elsie Seguss celebrating her 100th birthday in Brisbane.

BALLET superstar Elsie Seguss has always known she’d live to see her 100th birthday.

When the candles came out on a decadent chocolate cake on Friday, January 22, she was barely surprised.

“What I want to do, I usually do,” Miss Seguss said.

“I don’t give in to things much.”

As well as the desire to live as long as possible, Miss Seguss also felt called to commit her life to the traditions of ballet.

“That’s been my life,” she said.

“It’s something I’ll never get over.”

Born with a crooked foot after coming into the world feet-first, doctors prescribed ballet as a way of straightening up her leg.

At the doctor’s orders she began ballet at age seven, and eventually took up teaching at age 15.

Her big teaching break came at 19, when she took one of her classes to perform at a theatre in Brisbane that had been double-booked.

She was directed to Ted Kirby, a theatre businessman who owned the Rex Theatre in Fortitude Valley and had a possible opening.

The pair stayed in contact and two years later, in 1940, “to the disgust of her father”, Ted Kirby and Elsie Seguss were married.

Daughter Annette Kelderman said her father helped her mum grow her ballet business, Seguss School of Dancing, into an international success.

“It was through his contacts that Mum could get her business going,” Mrs Kelderman said.

“She’s had ballet students all around the world.

“In all the big companies – she’s had a couple from the Disneylands, and the (Royal Academy of Dance) in England.”

Brisbane-born Australian dancer Garth Welch was also a former student, as well as most of the teachers at the Queensland Ballet.

After a career spanning 71 years, Miss Seguss received the Order of Australia medal in 2010 and in 2009 was honoured by the Queensland Univiersity of Technology as one of Queensland’s greatest dance teachers.

“The artistic director of the Australian Ballet came and escorted Mum up to the stage, and she got a standing ovation,” Mrs Kelderman said.  

“She was the only one of all the teachers.”

The Catholic faith has played an integral part of Miss Seguss’ life, although in recent years at a Mt Gravatt nursing home, access to her usual weekly Mass routine has been more difficult.

But friends found a way to celebrate a special Mass for her 100th birthday at St Catherine’s Church, Wishart, with Fr Pat Molony. 

She also had two parties marking her 100th birthday, attended by family and more than 100 of her past students.

Miss Seguss was again given a standing ovation followed by her all-time favourite pastime – dancing.

By Emilie Ng

Catholic Church Insurance

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