Te Ao Māori

A window into the rich lifestyles of contemporary Māori
Photographs and words Nā Phil Tumataroa

When Breyah Takitimu was little, she spent hours dancing around her dad’s music shop in Invercargill. So when she turned three, her parents, Carrie and Deon, decided she should start dancing lessons. Fifteen years on Breyah still hasn’t stopped dancing.

“I love dancing and music, everything about it.

When the music has started and I’m dancing, nothing else matters at all. I love being on stage – it just feels so good – I can’t describe it,” she says.

“It’s the performance; it’s connecting with the audience; you’re a character; you’re vulnerable and putting your whole self on the line in the hope to make them feel something, which is what’s really special about dance.”

At 14, Breyah (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Porou) became unwell with what would eventually be diagnosed as Postural Tachycardia Syndrome. It meant a year of being in and out of hospital, being fed through a tube, and away from dance. At one stage, she was told she may never dance again.

“That’s when I realised I have to be a dancer – I missed it so much, I told myself I’d never take it for granted ever again. I was determined I was getting better.”

Breyah and her younger sister, Danye, share a passion for dance, which led her parents to move the family to Christchurch so they could pursue their dreams.

“I owe everything to them; they are amazing. They work so hard, and they pretty much give it all to me and my sister.”

Breyah has a busy routine between working in a café, teaching classes at Canterbury Ballet, and training there five days a week under the tutelage of Taisia Missevich.

Dance has taken Breyah all over New Zealand and Australia to train and compete, and most recently to Joffrey Ballet in Chicago for five weeks to take part in their summer intensive training programme.

“I danced every day of the week from nine to five – it was amazing. We did activities during the weekend and got to see Chicago, which was cool.”

Breyah is on the waiting list to join the year-long trainee programme in September 2023, “and it’s looking promising,” she says.

Her immediate plans are to return to Invercargill to teach for the summer, and a place with the Royal New Zealand Ballet mentoring programme before hopefully heading back to the United States.

“In the next couple of years, I would love to be performing and dancing with a company – that’s the goal.”