Darcey Andrea Bussell is a retired ballerina from England, who is best known as a judge on the ‘BBC’ dance reality show ‘Strictly Come Dancing.’ The 48-year-old English woman started her career even before she entered her teenage years and came to be known as one of the greatest British ballerinas of all time. Darcey attended various ballet schools until she became the principal dancer at the ‘Royal Ballet’ at the age of 20. In her career of two decades, Darcey has performed more than 80 separate roles, including that of ‘Princess Aurora’ in ‘The Sleeping Beauty,’ ‘Nikiya’ and ‘Gamzatti’ in ‘La Bayadère,’ ‘Odette/Odile’ in ‘Swan Lake,’ ‘Giselle’ in ‘Giselle,’ and the ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’ in ‘The Nutcracker.’ She retired from her profession in 2007, after her performance in MacMillan’s ‘Song of the Earth.’ Apart from being a successful dancer, Bussell is also a model, an author, and a TV personality. She has modeled for ‘Tatler,’ ‘Vanity Fair,’ and ‘Vogue.’ She has also modeled for clothing lines such as ‘Mulberry,’ ‘Marks & Spencer,’ and ‘Bruce Oldfield.’ She has also released a book series named ‘Magic Ballerina’ and has co-written the book ‘The Young Dancer’ with the ‘Royal Ballet School.’
Childhood & Early Life
Dame Darcey Andrea Bussell was born Marnie Mercedes Darcey Pemberton Crittle, on April 27, 1969, in London, England, to John Crittle and Andrea Williams.
Her father was an Australian businessman, and her mother was a housewife. However, her parents divorced when Darcey was 3 years old, and following this, her mother married an Australian dentist, Philip Bussell.
Darcey was adopted by her stepfather and spent most of her time in Australia with her family. She finally returned to London to attend ‘Fox Primary School.’
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Darcey began her career as a dancer at the ‘Charlotte School,’ a dance and musical theater in London. When she was 13, she joined the ‘Royal Ballet Lower School’ at White Lodge, Richmond Park.
She started progressing at the ‘Royal Ballet,’ which is one of the best international dance schools. She graduated to the ‘Royal Ballet Upper School’ at the age of 16. She also performed at the ‘Royal Opera House.’
In 1987, she was upgraded to ‘Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet,’ where she started participating in plays and productions. It was around this time when late Kenneth MacMillan noticed her grace and skills and decided to cast her as the principal dancer in his ballet, ‘Concerto,’ in 1986. In 1988, Kenneth got her another principal role in the ballet ‘The Prince of the Pagodas.’ She performed to Benjamin Britten’s music.
After her stint with Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet, she moved on to the ‘Royal Ballet’ in 1988. A year later, she became the principal dancer at the ‘Royal Ballet.’ Darcey was only 20 years old when she achieved the feat. She never looked back after that.
She appeared as ‘Princess Aurora’ in ‘The Sleeping Beauty,’ ‘Odette/Odile’ in ‘Swan Lake,’ and the ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’ in ‘The Nutcracker.’ She also played the titular roles in ‘Giselle’ and ‘Raymonda Act III.’
She performed in another MacMillan ballet named ‘Masha in Winter Dreams’ in 1991. The final “pas de deux” of ‘Winter Dreams,’ however, had been performed at the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations at the ‘London Palladium,’ a year earlier.
After the death of MacMillan, Darcey continued playing various roles in his ballets, such as title roles in ‘L'histoire de Manon’ and ‘Romeo & Juliet.’ Her other noteworthy performances were as ‘Mitzi Casper’ in ‘Mayerling,’ and as ‘Mathilde Kschessinska’ in ‘Anastasia.’
She also made various guest appearances with the ‘New York City Ballet,’ the ‘Balletto Della Scala,’ the ‘Kirov Ballet,’ the ‘Paris Opera Ballet,’ the ‘Hamburg Ballet,’ and the ‘Australian Ballet.’ She had principal roles in ‘Agon,’ ‘Symphony in C,’ ‘Apollo,’ and ‘Prodigal Son.’
She performed at the premiere of ‘Sylvia,’ by Léo Delibes, held at the ‘Royal Opera House’ in Covent Garden in 2004. In 2006, she stepped down as the principal dancer of the ‘Royal Ballet’ but continued as the guest principal artist.
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On June 8, 2007, she gave her last performance in MacMillan’s ‘Song of the Earth’ at the ‘Royal Opera House’ in London. Thereafter, she announced her retirement.
She made a comeback at the ‘2012 Summer Olympics’ closing ceremony, where she led a troupe of 200 ballerinas. The dance was called ‘the Spirit of the Flame.’
In 2016, she launched ‘DDMIX’ (Diverse Dance Mix), a fitness brand that featured dance styles such as tango, waltz, Irish, ballet, Bollywood, disco, salsa, and flamenco.
Other Major Works
She made her acting debut in ‘Yo Picasso’ (1994), in which she played ‘Olga Khokhlova.’ She also made appearances on shows such as ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ and ‘The One Show.’
She presented documentaries such as ‘Darcey’s Ballet Heroines’ (2013), ‘Darcey Bussell: Looking for Audrey’ (2014), ‘Darcey’s Ballet Heroes’ (2015), ‘Darcey Bussell: Looking for Margot’ (2016), and ‘Darcey Bussell: Looking for Fred’ (2017). She herself became the subject of a documentary titled ‘Britain’s Ballerina,’ in 2004.
In 2009, she joined the ‘BBC’ dance reality show ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ as a judge. In 2012, she returned to the judging panel, this time, as a permanent judge, replacing Alesha Dixon.
In 2011, she appeared on ‘BBC’s TV documentary ‘Darcey Bussell Dances Hollywood,’ recreating some of Hollywood’s most legendary dance performances. The show was the result of Darcey’s collaboration with choreographer Kim Gavin.
As a model, Bussell is most famous for being photographed with a diamond in her mouth for ‘De Beers.’ She has modeled for clothing lines such as ‘Marks & Spencer’ and ‘Mulberry’ and for the jewelry collection of the ‘World Gold Council.’
She has also modeled for ‘Vanity Fair’ and ‘Vogue.’ She was featured in a TV commercial for ‘Lloyds Bank.’
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In 2008, Bussell conceptualized an idea for a children’s book, which was later written by ghost writers. The six-book series came to be known as ‘Magic Ballerina’ and became a bestseller.
She also co-wrote ‘The Young Dancer’ for the ‘Royal Ballet School.’ In 2012, a picture book titled ‘Darcey Bussell’ was released in her honor.
Awards & Achievements
She was voted the ‘Dancer of the Year’ in 1990 by ‘Dance and Dancers’ magazine. In 1991, she was the joint winner of the ‘Cosmopolitan Achievement Award in the Performing Arts.’
Bussell received the honor of ‘Officer of the Order of the British Empire’ (OBE) in the ‘1995 New Year Honours.’ She was also appointed as the ‘Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ (CBE) in the 2006 ‘Birthday Honours.’
She received the honor of ‘Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ (DBE) at ‘2018 New Year Honours.’ She was honored with a gold medal from the ‘John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.’
In 2009, she received an honorary doctorate from the ‘University of Oxford.’ In 2017, she received another doctorate from the ‘Royal Conservatoire’ in Glasgow, Scotland.
Bussell is the president of the ‘Royal Academy of Dance.’ She had a crimson rose launched in her honor by ‘David Austin Roses’ at the ‘Chelsea Flower Show’ in 2006.
Artist Allen Jones painted a full-length portrait of Darcey Bussell, which was commissioned by ‘The National Portrait Gallery.’ The portrait was unveiled in May, 1994.
Darcey married Australian businessman Angus Forbes in 1997. She has two daughters: Phoebe Olivia and Zoe Sophia.
Darcey currently lives in London with her family.