A passion for dance

Rachel Banham, Post on 4th February, 2013
Ballet and dance star Darcey Bussell who visited Norwich to sign her new book and met some of her younger fans.

Former ballerina Darcey Bussell recently visitedNorwichto promote her new book. She tells Rachel Banham about her passion for dance, her links withEast Angliaand why she’s such a fan of Strictly Come Dancing. 

 The phrase “labour of love” is often overused, but when referring to the book Darcey Bussell: A Life in Pictures, it could scarcely be more apt. The book celebrates the career of Darcey, one of the greatest English ballerinas of all time.

It took her about two years to compile, and includes images from photographers such as Mario Testino, Lord Snowdon, Patrick Demarchelier and Mary McCartney. The book chronicles Darcey from her early years through to her final performance of MacMillan’s Song of the Earth.

Darcey explains that it’s a book she has always wanted to do since she retired from ballet in 2007, particularly for her children – Phoebe, 11, and eight-year-old Zoe.

“I think when you have kids it’s something like ‘oh I’d love to get it all down so that they have something’ because I had so much material and I also worked with so many different photographers, so many talented photographers,” she says.

“It just made sense because it’s a visual art to get it down into a photographic book.  It’s… not just my life, but the life of a dancer.”

Ballet and dance star Darcey Bussell who visited Norwich to sign her new book and met some of her younger fans.

There are images of Darcey on stage and in costume, as well as intimate behind-the-scenes photos of rehearsals and preparation. She also provides an insight into the ballet world, with personal anecdotes and memories of some of the most important moments in her career.

She says: “As a kid myself growing up with dance, my most favourite books were the photographic books on dance, of all the ballerinas and the male dancers. I just loved to see the images, how they created those images on stage.

“They’re not an easy book to put together so there are not as many around as there used to be.”

The book features Darcey’s now famous performances in ballets such asSwanLake, Cinderella, Giselle, Manon, The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty.

“It’s got a lot in it, but we just tried to make it very stylised as well which was important for me. The pictures span from 30 years ago to now – there are a lot of different ones,” she says. “It was quite emotional actually, a bit of a rollercoaster. There were a lot of tears over this book.

“There were lots of ups and downs with it, but I’m so happy it has come out as well as it has because I thought it was going to be a really easy book to do but it was actually very difficult.”

Darcey meets young fans in Norwich.

The former ballerina visited Open, Bank Plain,Norwich, in December 2012 to sign copies of the book Darcey Bussell: A Life in Pictures in an event organised by Jarrold. It was a welcome return to the city for her.

“We have some really old friends who live inNorwichso it’s lovely to come back,” she says. “The end of June/July, we were there visiting friends. We went to the beach. It was amazing because the sea was so flat. There were the most beautiful beach huts.

“We drove all the way through for the day and stopped off at lots of places. We had a great time because it was a beautiful day and there were so many people on the beach. It was amazing.”

Life has been busy for Darcey since she retired from ballet. She teamed up with Katherine Jenkins for their Viva La Diva musical in 2007, and she also has her own series of children’s books, Magic Ballerina. Darcey, her husband Angus Forbes and their children spent four-and-a-half years living inAustraliabefore moving back to theUKlast year.

The former Royal Ballet Principal came out of retirement to take part in the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. She also joined the judging panel on the BBC TV series Strictly Come Dancing, replacing Alesha Dixon. Working alongside fellow judges Len Goodman, Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli on Strictly is clearly a role that Darcey relishes.

“It’s such an uplifting show and that’s how it makes me feel,” she says. “It’s been going for nine years and it’s wonderful that it becomes more and more popular.

“It’s extraordinary actually how many classes now are open to the public because of this show. I’ve always been a big fan of it anyway, and I was a guest judge on it about three years ago.

“I think generally it sends just a brilliant message because they’re celebrities who would never even have attempted half of these moves and there they are enjoying every minute of it, even though it’s tough and they’re putting themselves out there for criticism.

“Generally I think they enjoy the experience so much, and I think it does send a message ‘oh, ok, if they can do it why can’t I do it?’ “It is a great show to be on because it’s very uplifting. I try to be a very constructive critic.”

Darcey is a patron of DanceEast’s Red Shoe Appeal, a fundraising campaign that secured the £8.9 million needed to build the Jerwood DanceHouse, at the former Cranfields Mill site in Ipswich.  The DanceHouse opened its doors to the community in September 2009, with classes for all ages and abilities, and performances by national and international dance artists.

Darcey says: “I would do anything to get any kid to try dance out. I think it’s a brilliant way of them expressing themselves and gaining a different confidence.

“I think you gain so much from dance. Kids so relate to music, and so it just makes sense that they should be dancing.

“I think also physically then they get a sense of their body and how to hold themselves and their posture which is so important when you’re growing up – to have a nice straight back and be strong and all those sort of things.”

Dance East ballet scholars pictured in 2005.

She adds: “I’m an ambassador for dance all round. That’s probably why I went on Strictly – because I just love a show that encourages people to say ‘I can do that’.”

  •  To find out more about the Red Shoe Appeal, visit the DanceEast website at: www.danceeast.co.uk

It is clear that Darcey enjoyed her first series as a member of the Strictly Come Dancing judging panel.

She speaks enthusiastically of those contestants who “have gone through the biggest journey”. She says: “I think somebody like Michael Vaughan had a transformation from not being able to move his body or feeling co-ordinated, and then somebody like Dani Harmer who is just like this little talent, this little ball of dynamite. She’s just extraordinary.”

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