Five Minutes with Darcey Bussell

Ballerina Darcey Bussell

One of the world’s most famous ballerinas of all time is in New Zealand this month. 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.

Bussell attend a high tea celebrating the New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD)’s 50th anniversary in 2017 over the weekend. She is an ambassador of the school’s supporters programme and has visited in the past as a guest tutor to the lucky classical students.

The high tea fundraiser for the school’s anniversary included food and drinks, an auction, a dance performance by NZSD students, live music and a tutu display. There was also the opportunity to watch Bussell coach selected NZSD students earlier in the day.

Born in London, at the time of becoming principal with the Royal Ballet, 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.

Darcey Bussell coaching NZSD student on her 2012 visit. Photographed by Stephen A’Court.

Darcey Bussell coaching a NZSD student on her 2012 visit. Photographed by Stephen A’Court.

What have you most enjoyed about your time with NZSD in recent years?
“All the students have been incredibly professional and very keen to learn, and that is always a pleasure to walk into a studio and see.”

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, hydrotherapy, 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.”

For more information on the high tea fundraiser, click here.

Photo (top): Darcey Bussell. Photo courtesy of NZSD.

By Rain Francis of Dance Informa.

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