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Darcey Bussell1

Darcey Andrea Bussell CBE (born Darcey Andrea Crittle[1] on 27 April 1969) is a retired English ballerina. She was employed by the Royal Ballet, where she became principal dancer, and acclaimed as one of the greatest British ballerinas of all time.[2][3] She has performed as a guest artist with leading international ballet companies and, since retiring from professional ballet in 2007, has continued to be very active in the world of dance.


Darcey Bussell was born in London to businessman John Crittle and his English wife Andrea Williams.[4] 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.

Dancing career[]

Darcey Bussell began her professional training at the Arts Educational School,[5] 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.[6] At 16, she progressed to the Royal Ballet Upper School in Baron's Court, before graduating into 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, and in 1988 he gave her 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 when aged 20, she was promoted to principal dancer, at the time the youngest principal of the Royal Ballet.[7]

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.

She made several guest appearances with the New York City Ballet, starting in June 1993, with a performance of the pas de deux from Agon.[8][9] She 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 at the end of the piece she received a standing ovation lasting over 8 minutes. It was also broadcast live on BBC Two.[10]

Despite retiring from the professional stage, Bussell remains deeply involved in the dance world. She is the Patron of the Sydney Dance Company and President of the Birmingham Royal Ballet's fund raising appeal. She is also a patron of the International Dance Teachers Association, Ceccetti UK, Ceccetti Australia, Dance Teachers Benevolent Fund UK, New English Ballet Theatre, the New Zealand School of Dance and the Henry Spink Foundation. She is on the board of the Margot Fonteyn Foundation. In 2012 she became the President of the Royal Academy of Dance.

Darcey Bussell2


Darcey 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.

Literary career[]

In 2008, Bussell released six books in a new children's series entitled The Magic Ballerina.[11] The story line involves a little girl called Delphie who joins a ballet school and discovers her shoes are magical. She then also did more books with the title "The Magic Ballerina" with names such as Rosa, Holly and Jade, all of which the girls own magic sparkly red ballet shoes.

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.[12]


She 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".

In 2006, at the Chelsea Flower Show, David Austin Roses launched a new crimson rose called 'Darcey Bussell'.[13]

Darcey and Katherine

Darcey Bussell and Katherine Jenkins.

Bussell teamed up with Katherine Jenkins to stage a song and dance production to pay tribute to the stars who inspired them[14] who include Madonna and Judy Garland.[15] [14] 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.[16]

She joined the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing judging panel in the final stages of the 2009 series.[17] In the semi-final of the competition she danced a jive with the professional dancer Ian Waite.[18]

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."[19]

When Bussell appeared as a guest on the 8 April 2010 episode of The ONE Show on BBC One, she assisted identical twin magicians The Twins with an illusion called Clearly Impossible, in which they sawed her in half within a transparent box.

On 12 August 2012 Bussell performed at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics, with a troupe of 200 ballerinas.[20]

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.[21]

In 2012, Bussell replaced Alesha Dixon on the Strictly Come Dancing judging panel for the 2012 series.[22]

Personal life[]

In 1997, Bussell married Australian Angus Forbes, a businessman, in Cherwell, Oxfordshire. They originally lived in Kensington with their two daughters, both of whom were born in Kensington and Chelsea, London: Phoebe Olivia (born 2001) and Zoe Sophia (born 2004).[23] In 2008, the family relocated to Sydney, Australia.[4] In July 2012 the family returned to the UK.[24]


  • She is 5 ft 7 ins (1.70m) tall.
  • She is a recipient of the Carl Alan Award for contributions to dance.
  • She was awarded the OBE in 1995 and the CBE in 2006.


  1. Valerie Lawson, "Turning Point", Good Weekend magazine, 20 September 2008
  2. "Darcey Bussell: Behind the Scenes at the Ballet - Exclusive Patrons Events - Exhibitions & events - Royal Academy of Arts". Royalacademy.org.uk. 16 September 2011. http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/events/patrons-events/darcey-bussell-behind-the-scenes-at-the-ballet,1719,EV.html. Retrieved 9 February 2012. 
  3. Template:Ballet News
  4. 4.0 4.1 Darcey dances off to Oz as an eco-mum Sunday Times – 23 December 2007
  5. "Arts Educational Schools London | Alumni". Artsed.co.uk. http://www.artsed.co.uk/who-we-are/alumni-list/. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  6. "Ballerina Darcey Bussell". Everenglish.org.uk. 23 May 1994. http://www.everenglish.org.uk/darcey_bussell.htm. Retrieved 9 February 2012. 
  7. Jennifer S. Uglow, Maggy Hendry. The Northeastern Dictionary of Women's Biography. p. 99. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=zlQKDvU1WV0C&pg=PA99#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  8. Joyner, Will (28 June 1993). "A Final 'Dinner With Balanchine' Summarizes a Master's Legacy". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1993/06/28/arts/a-final-dinner-with-balanchine-summarizes-a-master-s-legacy.html. 
  9. Parry, Jann (11 June 1995). "DANCE; She Knows How to Combine Innocence With Sensuality". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1995/06/11/arts/dance-she-knows-how-to-combine-innocence-with-sensuality.html. 
  10. An era ends in glittering glory – telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 10 December 2007.
  11. [1]Template:Subscription
  12. Darcy Bussell titles at booktopia.co.au (Retrieved 13 July 2013)
  13. "Chelsea Flower Show 2006". www.davidaustinroses.com. http://www.davidaustinroses.com/English/News.asp. Retrieved 27 November 2012. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 See what they've been keeping under their hats – guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 30 May 2007.
  15. I’ve got a story to tell, says Kath – icwales.icnetwork.co.uk. Retrieved 19 October 2007.
  16. Royal Variety Performance – bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 10 December 2007.
  17. Dixon joins Strictly dance judges – bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
  18. Bussell's jive receives standing ovation – digitalspy.co.uk. Retrieved 13 December 2009.
  19. "Darcey Bussell and Natalie Davis honoured – University of Oxford". Ox.ac.uk. 18 July 2009. http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2009/090721.html. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  20. "Olympics closing ceremony: A long goodbye to the Games". 12 August 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19195421. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  21. "Strictly Come Dancing star Darcey Bussell made Godmother of P&O Cruises' Azura | Mail Online". Daily Mail. UK. 25 January 2010. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-1231429/Strictly-Come-Dancing-star-Darcey-Bussell-Godmother-P-O-Cruises-Azura.html. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  22. "Darcey Bussell to replace Alesha Dixon on Strictly Come Dancing 2012" – unrealitytv.co.uk. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  23. "Marriages and Births England and Wales 1984–2006". Findmypast.com. http://www.findmypast.com/BirthsMarriagesDeaths.jsp. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  24. "Darcey Bussell Biography". AETN UK. http://www.thebiographychannel.co.uk/biographies/darcy-bussell.html. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 

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