One of the world's most famous ballerinas of all time visited Australia earlier this year. Darcey Bussell CBE, retired from the stage in 2007 after a stellar career as Principal with The Royal Ballet, also dancing with New York City Ballet, the Kirov Ballet and The Australian Ballet, amongst many others.
Born in London, at the time of becoming Principal with the Royal Ballet, Ms. Bussell was the youngest ballerina to be given this honour. She was awarded a CBE in 2006, received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 2009 and is Vice-President of the Royal Academy of Dance. She is currently a judge on the UK's Strictly Come Dancing.
As a young dancer, what aspect of technique or performance did you struggle most with – did anything not come naturally to you?
Plenty of things! As I was very late in strengthening my technique, I lacked in confidence. I was behind other students as I started late.
When auditioning, what can dancers do to set themselves apart from others?
Dancers should never worry about making mistakes, they should not miss out on any of the combinations and show their determination to correct themselves.
Is there a particular role which will always hold a special place in your heart, out of the countless you must have danced?
Swan Lake was my first classic at the age of 20. Song of the Earth by Sir Kenneth MacMillan was one of my favourite one act-ers and was my last performance as well.
Did being on the taller side for a ballerina ever pose an issue for you?
My teachers always said it would be an issue, but I actually believe it got me noticed and I was fortunate enough to have many tall male dancers who wanted to dance with me.
When it comes to more contemporary choreography, what makes a role enjoyable to dance?
Any new work is exciting because you are part of the creation and you are able to influence it. You always wish it will be remembered because of that.
As a dancer, what was your go-to form of treatment for injury?
There are plenty of things out there now to keep your body strong: Pilates, hydro therapy, physio, swimming.
Have you ever had an injury you just couldn't properly get rid of?
No. Pretty much everything is possible to get rid of, you have to learn about your weaknesses quickly and learn to manage them.
I hear there is a rose named after you! How do you feel about that?
It was a real honour to have David Austin name a rose after me. Fortunately it has a very lovely scent, and is attractive, it is a dark red velvet-like colour.
Making the decision to move on from dance can be an extremely difficult one for many people. Can you offer any advice to dancers struggling with this transition?
Treat it like you would focus for a new dance production or piece of work. Take one step at a time, and don't fear the future.
By Rain Francis. This is an excerpt of an interview originally published on Dance Informa.