Darcey Bussell was born in London on the 27th of April 1969. Her mother Andrea began training as a ballet dancer herself with the Royal Ballet School and later became a model, actress and owned a fashion store.
Darcey was a keen sportswoman at school, playing football with the boy's team and winning competitions for gymnastics and swimming. Destined to be a performer, she attended the Arts Educational School at the Barbican, had a flair for dance and so auditioned for the Royal Ballet School at White Lodge. She won one of the eight places at the school that year at the relatively late age of thirteen.
Starting so late compared to the other girls meant that they were more technically advanced than her, as most of them had been at the school since they were eleven. Darcey began training in her free time and as other girls watched television after the school period was over, Darcey returned to the studio to practise and improve. She signed up for some lessons with the legendary Svetlana Beriosova during her summer holidays. Through commitment and hard work she achieved her goal and in 1985, aged sixteen Darcey was accepted at the Royal Ballet's Upper School based in Barons Court, West London
While she was still at school, the late Kenneth MacMillan noticed her exceptional technique and in 1988 he gave her the leading role in his ballet The Prince Of The Pagodas, causing her to move to The Royal Ballet. A year later in December 1989, on the opening night of the show she was promoted to Principal, at the time the youngest ballerina to be given this honour.
A South Bank Show documentary on Darcey and her fellow principal Viviana Durante was broadcast in October 1992 and she has been seen in numerous televised galas including Both The Prince of the Pagodas and the Queen Mother's 90th Birthday Tribute. In October 1998 she was the subject of BBC1's Omnibus and appeared on television in a Carmen dance specially choreographed for the Lesley Garrett Show by William Tuckett. Further television appearances include the Awakening pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty in December 2004 and the full-length ballet of Sylvia, broadcast on Christmas Day 2005 by the BBC alongside a documentary on her called Britain's Ballerina. Her other TV appearances have included French and Saunders, The Vicar of Dibley, The House and Clive Anderson All Talk.
In December 1990 she was voted Dancer of the Year by the readers of Dance & Dancers magazine. In February 1991, she was presented with the Variety Club of Great Britain's Sir James Garreras Award for the most promising newcomer of 1990. One week later she was then presented with the Evening Standard Ballet Award for 1990. In April 1991 she was selected as the joint winner of the Cosmopolitan Achievement Award in the Performing Arts category.
She has featured in television commercials for American Express and Lloyds TSB and has been photographed by photographers including Mario Testino, Lord Lichfield, Lord Snowdon, Patrick de Matineau, and John Swanell amongst others. She has had modelling assignments with Marks & Spencer, where she featured the View From range during the period 2002 to 2004, Boodle and Dunthorne, Dunhill's watches, Mulberry, The World Gold Council, De Beers Diamonds for Tatler, Harvey Nicols, Simpsons and Audi amongst others. She has also featured on the cover of many magazines including GQ, Tatler and Harpers and Queen.
A full-length portrait of her by the artist Allen Jones RA, commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, was unveiled on 23 May 1994. She was created an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1995 New Year Honours List and subsequently a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2006 Birthday Honours list.
In 2006 Darcey announced her retirement as a principle dancer at the Royal Ballet. She stayed with the company as a “guest principal artist” and on the 8th of June 2007 Darcey officially retired from ballet with a final performance of MacMillan’s song of the Earth. It was performed at the Royal Opera House and was broadcast on BBC 2. At the end of the piece she was met with a glorious standing ovation, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house and there has never been so many flowers thrown on to the stage.
Darcey has now teamed up with Welsh Opera sensation Katherine Jenkins with whom she is putting on a musical called Viva La Diva, which will pay tribute to the stars who have inspired them. It will be a show filled with various styles of dance and song. The show, which will tour the country in November and December 2007, sold over two million pounds worth of tickets and it was completely sold out within a couple of weeks of it being announced. It will be featured on this year’s royal variety show and is also the subject of a Southbank show special, both to be aired in November. More shows are being planned for 2008.
Darcey Bussell is married to Angus Forbes and has two daughters, Phoebe Olivia, born on 3 June 2001, and Zoe Sophia, born on 10 February 2004.
Darcey Bussell travels from New South Wales Australia
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