Bussell at a curtain call after a performance of Theme and Variations
|Born||Marnie Mercedes Darcey Pemberton Crittle
27 April 1969
|Spouse(s)||Angus Forbes (1997–present)|
|Parents||John Crittle and wife Andrea Williams (divorced)
Adopted by Philip Bussell when he married Andrea
Trained at the Arts Educational School and the Royal Ballet School, she started her professional ballet career at Sadlers Wells Royal Ballet, but after only one year she moved to The Royal Ballet, where she became a principal dancer at just 20 years old in 1989. Bussell is widely acclaimed as one of the great British ballerinas. She remained with The Royal Ballet for her whole career, but also performed as a guest artist with many leading ballet companies including NYCB, the Kirov, Hamburg Ballet and the Australian Ballet. She retired from ballet in 2007, and remains very committed to the dance world.
In 2012 she became the President of the Royal Academy of Dance. She is the Patron of the Sydney Dance Company, the Du Boisson Foundation and is the President of the Birmingham Royal Ballet's fund raising appeal. She is a patron of the International Dance Teachers Association, Cecchetti UK, Cecchetti Australia, the Dance Proms and the New English Ballet Theatre. She is an ambassador for the giving programme of the New Zealand School of Dance and is on the board of the Margot Fonteyn Foundation. In 2012 Bussell joined the judging panel of the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing. She is a patron of the medical charities Sight for All, Borne and the Henry Spink Foundation. She is a Gold Medal recipient from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She is a recipient of the Carl Alan Award for contributions to dance.
Bussell was born in London to Australian businessman John Crittle and his English wife Andrea Williams. After the couple divorced when Bussell was three, her mother remarried and Bussell was adopted by her mother's new husband, Australian dentist Philip Bussell. The family spent some time in Australia, where Bussell attended school before they returned to London for Bussell to be educated at Fox Primary School.
Bussell began her professional training at the Arts Educational School, a specialist dance and musical theatre school in London. At the age of 13, she moved to continue her studies at the Royal Ballet Lower School, a leading international ballet school based at White Lodge, Richmond Park. At 16, she progressed to the Royal Ballet Upper School in Baron's Court, before joining the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet in 1987. Whilst studying at the Royal Ballet School, she appeared in a number of school productions, including performances at the Royal Opera House.
While Bussell was still at school, the choreographer Kenneth MacMillan had noticed her exceptional technique, and in 1988 he decided to use her to create the leading role in his ballet The Prince of the Pagodas to Benjamin Britten's music, which led to her moving to The Royal Ballet. A year later, in December 1989 on the opening night of the show, she was promoted to principal dancer at just 20 years old, at the time the youngest ever principal of The Royal Ballet.
Bussell performed all the major classical roles numerous times throughout her career, including Masha in Winter Dreams and Princess Rose in The Prince of the Pagodas, both choreographed by MacMillan, as well as Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Nikiya and Gamzatti in La Bayadère, the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Manon in Manon, and Giselle in Giselle. In Sleeping Beauty alone, she performed in four different productions, all at the Royal Opera House. Seventeen roles were created on her during her career.
Bussell also guested with the Kirov Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Hamburg Ballet and the Australian Ballet. She danced the première of Sylvia by Léo Delibes choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on 4 November 2004. In 2006 she announced her retirement as a principal dancer at the Royal Ballet, though stayed with the company as "guest principal artist". She retired from ballet on 8 June 2007 with a performance of MacMillan's "Song of the Earth" (music Gustav Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde). It was performed at the Royal Opera House in London, and broadcast live on BBC Two.
Bussell has modelled clothes for Mulberry, Bruce Oldfield and Marks & Spencer. She has also been photographed for Tatler, Vogue and Vanity Fair. She was famously photographed with a diamond in her mouth in a promotion for De Beers. Bussell modelled the first ever jewellery collection for the World Gold Council. From 2009-2013 she was the face of The Sanctuary Spa. In 2014 she became an ambassador for Silvikrin (Wella / Procter & Gamble) hair products.
In 2009, Bussell released six books in a new children's series entitled The Magic Ballerina. The story line involves a little girl called Delphie who joins a ballet school and discovers her shoes are magical. 14 more books have been released under the same title with leading characters with names such as Rosa, Holly and Jade, all of which the girls own magic sparkly red ballet shoes. Sales have exceeded 1.4m copies.
She also co-wrote The Young Dancer with the Royal Ballet School and wrote an introduction to the book The Illustrated Book of Ballet by Barbara Newman, which showcases five of the ballets in which she starred. An autobiographical picture book of her ballet career titled ' Darcey Bussell' was released in 2012.
Bussell guest starred as herself in the popular BBC1 comedy The Vicar of Dibley in 1998. In the episode, she aids Geraldine in a fundraiser and the two perform a pas de deux called "The Mirror".
Bussell teamed up with Katherine Jenkins to stage a song and dance production to pay tribute to the stars who inspired them who include Madonna and Judy Garland. Bussell and Jenkins performed a segment of Viva la Diva before the Queen at the 79th Royal Variety Performance which was televised on 9 December 2007.
Bussell joined the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing judging panel as a fifth judge in the final stages of the 2009 series. In the semi-final of the competition she danced a jive with the professional dancer Ian Waite. In 2012, Bussell returned to the Strictly Come Dancing judging panel for the 2012 series as a permanent judge and replacement for Alesha Dixon. At the start of her first appearance as a judge she performed in a feature American Smooth, again partnered with Ian Waite.
When asked by journalists at the Sky Arts South Bank Awards ceremony in January 2014, she revealed that she was uncertain of her future on the show, and of her desire to continue as a judge. However, it was announced on 27 June that Bussell would return for the 2014 series of the show.
In December 2011 she featured in a television show where alongside choreographer Kim Gavin she recreated some of Hollywood's famous dance routines including some by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly from films such as Singin' In The Rain and Top Hat ("Cheek to Cheek") on BBC Four.
On 18 July 2009, Bussell received an honorary doctorate (DLitt) from the University of Oxford. During the ceremony the university’s public orator noted that she "adds to technical mastery, charm and imagination, in such a way that she seems to reveal the grace of her personality as well as the grace of movement… Moreover, she wants those who are perhaps put off by the grand portals of the Royal Opera House to enjoy the pleasures that ballet affords."
On 12 August 2012 Bussell performed at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics, descending from the roof of the Olympic stadium, in the role 'spirit of the flame', leading a troupe of 200 ballerinas.
Bussell is the "godmother" of MS Azura, a 115,000 ton cruise liner of the P&O Cruises fleet. When the ship was officially launched in April 2010, Bussell performed the traditional ceremony of breaking a bottle of champagne to name the ship. She also staged a dance performance with students from the Royal Ballet School.
Bussell has presented the live cinema relays for The Royal Ballet in the 2013/14 and 2014/15 seasons. In December 2014 Bussell presented a documentary on Audrey Hepburn, titled 'Looking for Audrey' which was aired on BBC One.
On 14 January 2015, Bussell was announced as co-presenter and dance expert for the Grand Final of the inaugural BBC Young Dancer competition, which will be aired live from Sadler's Wells Theatre on BBC Two in May.
In 1997, Bussell married Australian businessman Angus Forbes in Cherwell, Oxfordshire. They originally lived in Kensington with their two daughters, both of whom were born there, Phoebe Olivia (born 2001) and Zoe Sophia (born 2004). In 2008, the family moved to Sydney, Australia. In July 2012, the family returned to London.
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- (subscription required)
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- NY Times, Alastair Macaulay, 12 June 2007
- Darcey Bussell at the National Portrait Gallery (seven portraits held)
- Dance legend Darcey Bussell's next step | Interview by Chris Wiegand in the Guardian, 19 May 2009