Darcey Bussell was born in London and attended the Arts Educational
School studying all forms of stagecraft. Aged 13, she moved to White
Lodge (The Royal Ballet Lower School) to concentrate on ballet and
graduated into the Upper School in 1985, staying for two years and
appearing in the 1986 and 1987 School performances at Covent Garden. She
then joined Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet (now The Birmingham Royal
Ballet) for the 1987/88 season.
The late Kenneth MacMillan had noticed Darcey's exceptional technique
while she was still a student, and cast her in the principal role of his
ballet Concerto for the 1986 School performance. During her first season
with Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet he chose her for the leading role in
The Prince of the Pagodas, his new work for The Royal Ballet, and she
transferred between the two companies in September 1988. She joined the
Royal Ballet as a Soloist, becoming a First Soloist in September 1989.
Just three months later, on the first night of The Prince of the
Pagodas, Darcey was promoted to the rank of Principal. She was aged just
twenty at the time.
She created two major roles for MacMillan before his death: Princess
Rose in The Prince of the Pagodas and Masha in Winter Dreams, which was
premiered in February 1991. The final Farewell pas de deux of Winter
Dreams had been created in advance of the full ballet and was performed
at the Queen Mother's 90th Birthday Tribute at the London Palladium in
July 1990. Her other roles in MacMillan's ballets include the title
roles in Manon and Romeo and Juliet, the leading roles in Song of the
Earth and Elite Syncopations, the Agnus Dei role in Requiem, Mitzi
Casper in Mayerling and Mathilde Kschessinska in Anastasia.
Her classical repertory includes Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Princess
Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker,
Nikiya and Gamzatto in La Bayadère, and the title roles in Giselle and
Raymonda Act III.
In the Royal Ballet's Balanchine repertory, she has appeared in the
first performances by the Company of Rubies and Stravinsky Violin
Concerto (Aria I) and also danced the central roles in Agon, Symphony in
C (Second Movement), Tchaikovsky pas de deux, Apollo (Terpsichore),
Prodigal Son (Siren), Duo Concertant, Ballet Imperial and Serenade (pas
de deux girl).
She has danced the title role in Frederick Ashton's Cinderella,
Monotones II, Sacred Love in Les Illuminations and the pas de deux and
Bariosova Variation in Birthday Offering; leading roles in William
Forsythe's In The middle, somewhat elevated and Herman Scherman (pas de
deux); the Prostitute in the first Royal Ballet performance of Glen
Tetley's La Ronde; the Black Queen in Ninette de Valois' Checkmate;
Ashley Pages' pas de deux … now languorous, now wild … and the company
premiere of Twyla Tharp's Push Comes to Shove.
She has also created leading roles in Twyla Tharp's first work for The
Royal Ballet, Mr Worldly Wise (Mistress Truth-on-Toe), Matthew Hart's
Dances With Death, Christopher Wheeldon's pas de deux Pavane our une
infante défunte, Glen Tetley's sextet Amores and Mark Baldwin's Towards
Darcey's televised performances include the Prince and the Pagodas and
the Queen Mother's 90th Birthday Tribute in 1990, La Bayadère (with
Darcey in the role of Gamzatti) followed in 1991 and Winter Dreams in
1992; she danced the Tchaikovsky pas de deux in the Winter Gala
televised in 1997, where she also appeared as the Lilac Fairy in the
final Sleeping Beauty tableau, symbolising the closure of the Royal
Opera House for redevelopment. 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. She most recently
appeared on television in a Carmen dance specially choreographed by
William Tuckett for the Lesley Garrett Show.
Darcey's international performances include the Gala des Étoiles held in
Paris in October 1991 and featuring leading dancers from all over the
world. In June 1993 she danced the Agon pas de deux at the Balanchine
Gala in New York, returning to dance with New York City Ballet in
February 1994 in Agon and Symphony in C, and in Summer 1995 to appear in
Balanchine's productions of Swan Lake (Act II) and A Midsummer Night's
Dream. She has also guested internationally with several other
companies. In February 1998 she danced with the Kirov at St. Petersburg
performing the role of Nikiya in La Bayadère.
She was voted Dancer of the Year in December 1990 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, and one week later 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
A portrait of her by the artist Allen Jones RA was commissioned by the
National Portrait Gallery and unveiled on 23 May 1994. She was created
an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1995 New Year
Gordon King was commissioned to paint 3
studies of Darcey to produce limited edition prints where part of the
proceeds would go to the Alzheimer's charity.