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Sunday, 7 January, 2001, 23:44 GMT
Darcey Bussell: Ballet superstar
Darcey Bussell
Darcey Bussell regularly attracts sparkling reviews
Darcey Bussell has been getting rave reviews as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Royal Ballet's seasonal staging of The Nutcracker.

She has also been performing in a mixed evening of British choreography, in which critics variously described her "cool scrupulous line" (Independent on Sunday) and "shining high extensions" (The Times), or as just plain "majestic" (Daily Telegraph).

But such accolades are nothing new for the Royal Ballet's leading ballerina.

She is an OBE, her waxwork image is in Madame Tussauds, and her portrait is in the National Portrait Gallery.

She has turned up in the pages of Vogue and Vanity Fair, and she has modelled clothes for Mulberry and Bruce Oldfield.

She was even a New Labour pin-up when her portrait by Allen Jones went on display at Downing Street - until the dancer made her Conservative allegiances known.

Late starter

All just reward for a dancer who had to be determined to make it to the top of the difficult and physically arduous ballet world.

Bussell joined White Lodge in Richmond at the relatively late age of 13.

Since most young dancers start at 11 or younger, she had ground to make up, but she powered ahead, becoming the Royal Ballet's youngest ever principal.

The great choreographer Sir Kenneth MacMillan famously picked her out of the Corps de Ballet to dance the lead in The Prince of the Pagodas.

Darcey Bussell
The dancer helped mark the re-opening of the Royal Opera House in 1999
She danced her first classic, Swan Lake, in 1990 at the age of 20.

Right from the beginning she stunned the critics, who were surprised at her unusual height - 5ft 7in is tall for a ballerina.

She has not looked back since, and is universally praised for both her dancing and general demeanour.

There are no stories of Bussell tantrums, although she is the Royal Ballet's golden girl and is adored by people who would not dream of ever going to the ballet.

The only shadow, if it could be called that, is a rumoured rift between herself and another Royal Ballet top star, Sylvie Guillem.

In her autobiography A Life In Dance, she describes the delight she took in manhandling Guillem in the ballet La Bayadere, saying: "I have to admit it was terribly pleasing to be able to throw her across the stage, I felt I had her."

Family ties

Her husband of three years is Australian financier Angus Forbes, who was a neighbour of her parents in Fulham, west London.

Her mother, Andrea, is a former dancer herself and she has a younger brother and sister, James and Zaylie. Her stepfather Philip is a dentist.

Bussell was estranged from her natural father John Crittle, an Australian who left her mother when Bussell was six and who died earlier this year.

Whether the dancer would leave the rigors of ballet to have children, and whether she would then return to dance, are questions that ballet devotees had long pondered.

Speaking to Hello magazine in October 2000, she said: "A lot of dancers have children and go back to work, so there is that possibility for me.

"It is much more common now and seems to be much more acceptable.

"Dancers come back far less nervous about their performance, because they seem to have their priorities in life sorted."

Both critics and audiences alike will be looking forward to having her back on stage.

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See also:

07 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Ballet star 'three months pregnant'
01 Dec 99 | Entertainment
Royal rebirth for Opera House
28 Sep 99 | Entertainment
Rush for Royal Opera tickets
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