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Darcey Bussell: We Like The Way She Moves

21 May 2014 | London Calling

Darcey Bussell just can’t rid herself of the dancing bug. Whether that is performing herself, or spreading the word about how effortless grace on the dancefloor is one of the London’s trademark traditions that will never go out of fashion, the 45-year-old’s take on dance culture in the capital is absorbing reading, as London Calling discovered.

When Darcey Bussell ended her 20-year stint at the Royal Ballet to relocate to Australia with her family in 2007, she effectively ceased to have anything to do with dancing. The intention was clear – after a career in the spotlight of London’s finest theatres, TV appearances (long before the behemoth of Strictly Come Dancing appeared) and a multitude of memories of the capital, the family demanded a clean break.

Little did she know she would be back with a vengeance.

“I did think that I’d finished dancing and that I could just go and live a normal life,” she admits. “It seemed like a good idea at the time; I had two kids and a full-time job and it was all too much. But I began to miss it really badly after about a year, and I knew I had to go back into dancing.”

To start again upon her move back to London is one thing, but Bussell could not have picked a more high-profile comeback gig: the London 2012 Olympics. At the closing ceremony, she made her long-awaited return, floating down from the sky on a flaming mechanical phoenix, the first time she had danced for over five years. She admits it was an experience as exhilarating, and frightening, as any she has known.

“It was incredible, and so, so emotional. It was truly extraordinary. But it was totally terrifying! All the rehearsing paid off on the night. Three months of it in a parking lot in Dagenham in secret, when the weather was mostly terrible, very often everyone ended up rehearsing in wellies because it was so wet! But it was all worth it in the end.”

The event gave Bussell a lust for dancing again, and soon afterwards BBC1 flagship show Strictly came calling, asking her to be a permanent judge after a handful of successful guest appearances. It was an offer that she couldn’t refuse.

“Oh it’s my favourite, my absolutely favourite,” she admits. “It has been for a long time, so I was delighted to become a judge. The success of the brand is extraordinary - it is the most popular thing on TV, especially amongst families. It is the only reality show out there that appeals to the whole family and it is what I know best, so I know just why it is so popular.”

Bussell’s future on the show remains uncertain, unlike that of host Sir Bruce Forsyth, who has finally moved backstage. The dancer says that she was surprised when one of light entertainment’s true icons announced he was going. “Bruce has been on our screens throughout the history of television – just consider that. He has always been known, always been a fixture. What he deserves is a great send-off, and his replacement, Claudia Winklemen has huge boots to fill, but she will be just fantastic too.”

Aside from having the charm and sensitivity to tell celebrities of errant steps, slants and stretches in a way that almost seems like she is complimenting them, Bussell has been making strides in order to get the rest of the nation dancing.

Her first campaign, entitled, Dance for Lifelong Wellbeing, takes the form of an ambitious programme of classes and events across the UK aimed at targeting older dancers. It started in the capital last month, and although the first phase has just come to a close, its success is expected to see the scheme back for a second run in the summer.

Immediately on the radar though is The Big Burn, which takes place at Alexandra Palace on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st May. This is a mass participation fitness class where Bussell will lead DD-Mix, which gives a flavour of many dance styles, from ballet to jive and Bollywood to Charleston.

Together with stars of Strictly, the weekend looks set and gives the clearest indication yet that Bussell will dedicate her retirement to dance with the same gusto as she did her career.

“I think this is a good thing, and it is good for me as it is a way for me to keep fit after being in pretty good shape for my entire career. But if you’re going to keep fit, what better way than dancing? So that is what we want to tell people - forget normal exercise, dancing is the way to do it!

“And the excitement and thrill that you see in people when they’re dancing is something, I believe, you just don’t get with anything else. It’s the music, the rhythm and the sense that everyone is part of a community. That’s what keeps them coming back.”

What keeps Darcey coming back is undoubtedly a passion for dance that won’t go away. Even the Bussell household are required to quickstep to the moves of the bouncing ballerina, it seems.

“Well yes, as you would imagine, there is a lot of dancing that goes on. We dance in the morning, at lunchtime, in the evenings… whenever we have time really. But it’s about having fun and getting everyone together. It lifts the spirit and, certainly in terms of the mornings, gets the kids alert and awake, and that’s no mean feat!

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

For more information on The Big Burn, please click here, while Dance for Lifelong Wellbeing details can be found here.

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