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Darcey Bussell,

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One of my favorite dancers (alas, only on video) has been Darcy Bussell. I notice, however, that there has been relatively little serious discussion of her dancing on Ballet Talk. The BT "search" function turns up very few references to Bussell, compared to large numbers of Russian ballerinas.

Even in the general press recently, you are more likely to find general (always positive) references to her popularity in Britain, or to being Britain's "most beloved ballerina," rather than detailed appraisals of her work.

I sometimes wonder: am I crazy to love looking at this dancer as much as I do?

What explains Bussell's relative invisibility on this Board? And -- more important -- what do BT members thing about her dancing, stage presence, the trajectory of her career, her repertoire, her partnerships, or anything else you can think of?

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Bart - I think the disproportion could be for logistical reasons - she doesn't tour all that much anymore, does she? Did she go to DC with the Royal? If she's traveling less (she has children) the only people to report on her are those that see her in London.

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For me, Darcy Bussell's guest appearances with NYCB, particularly in Agon, linger in memory as among the most exciting performances at the NY State Theater after the banishment of Suzanne Farrell, the Elusive Muse herself. I don't miss a lack of "serious" discussion on Ballet Talk about Bussell (be careful what you wish for, I say), because there is no lack of internet fan activity, including an official web site and another that bills itself as "a shrine to Mistress Darcy Bussell." There is one serious matter I would like cleared up, however. Her name is usually spelled Darcy. But on her official site it's Darcey.

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Hi Farrell Fan

Can I clear up your serious matter? Darcey does spell her name with an 'e' and always has.

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As Farrell Fan noted above, Bussell performed the pas de deux from Agon during the 1993 Balanchine Festival, later released on VHS and DVD. This is the one Bussell performance that is widely known to American audiences.

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Hi Farrell Fan

Can I clear up your serious matter? Darcey does spell her name with an 'e' and always has.

Thank you very much, Shirley.

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Bart,

I really like Bussell too. I first saw her two years ago in the Ashton 100 that was incorporated into the Lincoln Center Festival. She did a pdd from Birthday Offering and I was very struck by the beauty of her dancing.

But since then I haven't noticed her here in NYC except for her two appearances at the YAGP gala last April.

I would have picked something different than the last pdd from Manon but I was grateful for a chance to see her again.

I'm hoping she uses her looser arrangement with the RB will allow her to do more guest appearances before she quits (I think she's 37).

Maybe her "low profile" on this country is due to the not so frequest appearances and her not very exotic persona.

I hope she comes back and does a guest appearance her in the US.

Also, it would be nice if the BBC telecast of Sylvia with Bussell and Bolle gets released on DVD.

And Leigh, I don't think she was part of the RB visit to DC unless I missed her name in one of the mixed programs. She wasn't in any of the Beauties .

Richard

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Hi Farrell Fan

Can I clear up your serious matter? Darcey does spell her name with an 'e' and always has.

Thank you very much, Shirley.

No problem. I know 'Darcey' is often spelt without the 'e' but Ms Bussell spells it with an 'e'. Her mum's unusual choice of spelling by all accounts.

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Perhaps Londoners (the ones who populate dance forums anyway) feel there's not a huge amount to say that hasn't already been said given that she's been performing with the RB since (guessing) 1989 and especially now that her performances have been getting fewer each season what with family time off and now her guest artist status.

It is true she has and still does have the status here, among the general public, as the 'face of the RB' if not 'face of British Ballet' - in fact from comments I've often heard at the ROH on ballet nights (whether or not she's performing that night) it seems that some (I would call them 'occassional ballet goers') regard her as the *only* dancer who really counts at the RB! .... the one they will book to see by default.

The truth is the standard of the female dancers at the RB at the moment is absolutely awesome - and with so many new and not-so-new dancers here to get exited about maybe that's why people are not writing about Darcey so much these days.

But she is still much loved in the UK and rightly so - I personally love to see her dance here still and I think she has a special and unique quality onstage which is absolutly captivating. Most recently I saw her again in MacMillan's 'Requiem' ... absolutely sublime ......

I generally prefer her to see her in non-dramatic roles but having said that, compared to other dancers, she often seems able to add huge dramatic meaning to some of the more abstract ballets. Does that make any sense?! Well, I know what I mean at least! :rolleyes:

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One of my favorite dancers (alas, only on video) has been Darcy Bussell. I notice, however, that there has been relatively little serious discussion of her dancing on Ballet Talk. The BT "search" function turns up very few references to Bussell, compared to large numbers of Russian ballerinas.

Even in the general press recently, you are more likely to find general (always positive) references to her popularity in Britain, or to being Britain's "most beloved ballerina," rather than detailed appraisals of her work.

I sometimes wonder: am I crazy to love looking at this dancer as much as I do?

What explains Bussell's relative invisibility on this Board? And -- more important -- what do BT members thing about her dancing, stage presence, the trajectory of her career, her repertoire, her partnerships, or anything else you can think of?

There are few seasoned balletgoers in London that admire Darcey Bussell that much and for various reasons. The main reason is that they feel Miss Bussel despite her beauty( some describe her as a toothy schoolgirl), has added no depth to her performances over the years. Her technique has been seen as weak in turns( I have seen her very good in turns). I see her as quite glamourous and she has despite nerves on occasion shows tremendous attack, high elevation in grand jete and a crowd pleasing panache. I thought her first night performance in the reconstructed Sylvia was both entertaining and enjoyable although her epaulement let her down. Although the most famous Royal Ballet dancer since Margot Fonteyn she lost ground in the company when she was off with her baby Phoebe and Alina Cojocaru and Tamara Rojo established themselves with audience and critics in a way that Miss Bussell never did. With a family and business interest and perhaps other fish to fry she is now only a guest artist with the RB. Odette/Odile, Aurora, Giselle and Natalia Petrovna are beyond her reach but I admired her as Nikiya and Gamzatti. Where she goes from now I am not sure. She is a media celebrity and in an interview she is quoted as saying, "... the Royal Ballet is not me." Many thought, myself included that Miss Bussel was perfect for NYC and was not really a classical ballet dancer.

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Thanks for the responses so far. I'm sorry about the spelling error. It seems someone has corrected the topic title. Thanks.

So many people use the term "beautiful" to describe her dancing. I wish I had the knowledge to figure out just WHAT goes into creating this impression of beauty.

Is it relatead to her personality? Technique? Line? Precise placement? Wonderful legs? All of the above? Is there some Cecchetti quality or influence at play? (I should add that I also loved Fonteyn and return to her often on video.)

I have gotten a lot of joy from many great female dancers who are quite different in style and presentation from Busssell: Verdy, Hayden, Thesmar, Guillem, Zakharova, McBridge, Farrell, Whelen (whom I only saw when she was young), Ananiashvili, Ferri, Vishneva (a new discovery for me) plus some of the fine young dancers at Miami City Ballet whom I see most often today.

But I know that if you put the top 20 ballerinas in the world on stage with bags over their heads and simple leotards or tutus on their bodies, and asked them to dance, I could tell you which one was Busssell almost without pause. That would be the dancer my eye would most return to during the course of what would definitely be a strange and beautiful dance. :)

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As an American who has seen Busell only three or four times in person and on two videos, I'm certainly no expert on her or her impact on the RB. But she strikes me as the dancer who moved the RB from one era to the next. Her high extensions and bold attack were so uncharacteristic of the previous generation, yet she maintained that calm, strong center indicative of Cecchetti training and not much seen in non-British (-style) trained dancers.

I wonder to what degree Sylvie Guillem's presence at RB influenced Darcey. We will probably never know, but there can be no doubt that Guillem broke (and continues to break) barriers. She probably also expanded the range of perceived possibilities among youngsters then training.

I agree with leonid's take on her overall impression. When the curtain rose on her in Prince of the Pagodas in New York, my (non-balleto) companion gasped "She's beautiful!" In face and form, I fully agree.

Many balletos expect their favorites to devote 100% of their time and thinking to the perfection of their art. I will never be convinced that that produces interesting performers -- at least not over the course of a career or in a range of roles. I congratulate Ms. Bussell on the choices she's made. I'd have liked to have seen more of her, but I wish her well as she continues to branch out and away.

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Whenever people start talking about "the Russian Back", I always think about Darcey Bussell's dancing and wonder why.

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Londoners will have a chance to see Darcey Bussell and Igor Zelensky in a program at Sadler's Wells from 28 November-2 December 2006:

http://www.sadlerswells.com/whats_on/2006_2007/darcey.asp

Zelensky will perform Concerto Grosso, a solo created specially for him by the leading Russian choreographer Alla Sigalova. Featuring music by Geog Friedrich Handel, Zelensky recently premiered the piece at the Mariinsky International Ballet Festival to great acclaim. Bussell will also perform a new solo by Alastair Marriott, whose recent Tanglewood for The Royal Ballet was met with great acclaim.

Bussell and Zelensky will also perform two duets including Roland Petit’s dramatic Le jeune homme et la mort, featuring JS Bach's stirring music. This is a unique chance to see this rarely performed ballet, which will be performed by Bussell and Zelensky together for the very first time.

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I'm still pursuing a conclusion about my mixed feelings (sometimes close to puzzlement) about Bussell's extraordinary dancing. Recently, I came across this July 1997 on-line review of the Royal's Prince of the Pagodas, by Leigh. The analysis seems remarkably on target. (Underlining is mine.)

As Princess Rose, Darcey Bussell is prodigiously placed. Her facility has even greater control than Paloma Herrera's and she does not seem to dance from some interior fantasy of classicism, she simply is classical. [ ... ]

Ms. Bussell's aplomb actually borders upon the complacent,but MacMillan does not help the situation by giving choreography that forces her to constantly stop her momentum to wrench herself in the opposite direction. When in the second act dance where she rejects her suitors, he finally gave her choreography with a simpler construction to it, she blossomed. (His choreography in other parts of the ballet has the fussiness of tea cozies or toilet paper covers). Suddenly, in the expanded phrases, her own movement expanded, and we saw the potential of her power.

We saw this again in the coda of the grand pas de deux where the tempo of both the music and the steps speeded up just enough, not to yet another point of fussy eccentricity, but to where there was drive and urgency in the choreography and Bussell's dancing. Bussell must watch for being sedately perfect. She must dare not to be absolutely on a straight up and down plumb line to the point where it seems she cannot budge herself from it; she needs to risk just enough, not to fall into hysteria, but so that the moment matters.

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One of my favorite dancers (alas, only on video) has been Darcy Bussell. I notice, however, that there has been relatively little serious discussion of her dancing on Ballet Talk. The BT "search" function turns up very few references to Bussell, compared to large numbers of Russian ballerinas.

Even in the general press recently, you are more likely to find general (always positive) references to her popularity in Britain, or to being Britain's "most beloved ballerina," rather than detailed appraisals of her work.

I sometimes wonder: am I crazy to love looking at this dancer as much as I do?

What explains Bussell's relative invisibility on this Board? And -- more important -- what do BT members thing about her dancing, stage presence, the trajectory of her career, her repertoire, her partnerships, or anything else you can think of?

Hello, I love Darcey just as much, and agree with you comments. I have been lucky enough to see her perform on stage at the opera house 3 times in the last eight years, and she is magnificent! I love to watch tall ballerinas, beacuse they have to work so much harder to fit in intricate steps etc., There really is a pleasing athleticism about Darcey's dancing, which is hard to locate in others sometimes. Possibly Zenaida Yanowsky and Leanne Benjamin, but she will always be my top dancer!

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Thanks for that, skylark. I hope you'll also say hello and tell us something about your love of ballet on the 'Welcome" forum, and that you'll enjoy and be a part of our forums, from Britain and all over.

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It's odd, but my on-line version of the article looks different from yours, carbro. Same text, though.

Here's a set of links to a group of really fascinating articles by Leigh, circa 10 years ago. Any one of them could be a fruitful starting point for great Ballet Talk discussions.

http://members.aol.com/lwitchel/dance.htm

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I hadn't replied so far because I was obeying the aphorism "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Darcey Bussell's dancing leaves me a bit cold, and I acknowledge that this response is highly subjective.

I saw two Royal Ballet performances fifteen years ago when I was quite young. One of Lesley Collier's final performances as Giselle made a great impression on me; she earned the label "ballerina" in my mind. And I now know that this role was not in her natural emploi. I saw Bussell in the Nutcracker and remember that I didn't like it. Looking back at videos, I see a certain stiffness in her shoulders. Are they a bit high? Is it a question of breathing? I don't know if anyone else sees this. Her legs are lovely but I do not see a complete line (same with Paloma Herrera). This is not a dig at the Cecchetti/Royal Ballet style, but what I see as a peculiarity of hers, for there are many dancers I love with the same training.

And in terms of "perfume": I feel that Bussell is extremely ill-served appearing with Asylmuratova in the Bayadere video, though I know there are those who feel the opposite. Not only are their characters not in sympathy, their styles are not—I find Darcey prosaic and Altynai otherworldy. (She is one of my top favorites; I know she has her own technical weaknesses but they happen not to distract or bother me.) I also feel Terekhova made a stronger (fire-breathing, space-eating) impression as Gamzatti in another video.

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I hadn't replied so far because I was obeying the aphorism "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

Slightly OT, but related to the main mission of the board:

Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Teddy Roosevelt's wild child daughter, embroidered a sofa pillow that said, "If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, then come right over here and sit by me, dear." We can do this, and thus far on this thread negatives have been couched in the right kind of voice, without rancor and meanness. Keep up the good work.

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[ ... ] and thus far on this thread negatives have been couched in the right kind of voice, without rancor and meanness. Keep up the good work.
I want to echo this. One of the things about Ballet Talk that most attracted me when I first stumbled upon it was the high level of discourse -- even when people disagree. It shows respect for each other and for the art.

Beck_hen, even though I am a fan of Bussell, you're points are so well observed that I had to admit, as I read them, that they explain some of my reservations about what I have seen.

I'm here to learn. So this was something I really appreciated. Thanks. :jawdrop:

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My major viewings of Darcey Bussell were over ten years ago with the Royal Ballet in MacMillans "Prince of the Pagodas" and in Ashton's "Cinderella" and with the NYCB in the Balanchine "Swan Lake" and "Midsummers Night Dream" and I think "Symphony in C". What is interesting is that Anna Kisselgoff found her initial appearances with the Royal Ballet promising but slightly off-putting. She felt that Bussell was not in the Royal tradition of understated, elegant, musical dancing with a lot of emphasis on facial expression and mime. She saw more athleticism, greater use of extensions and sharper phrasing and less dramatic involvement and facial expression in the young Darcey. Bussell danced "bigger" than the previous generations and in fact was probably taller. Kisselgoff liked the sharp footwork and clarity and openness of Bussell's style. She noticed a tightness in the upper body around the shoulders in contrast to the port de bras and epaulement of the older generations. She still liked her but felt that she reflected a more contemporary sensibility and didn't follow in the tradition of Markova, Fonteyn and Sibley.

However, Darcey despite her longer, leggy body and broader, bigger dance style has always had a kind of reserved, coltish girlishness about her stage persona. The smile is kind of "I want you to like me" and not "I am the star and you need only look here". This modest girlish persona was perfect for Cinderella and probably Aurora but perhaps not as effective in diva roles like Odette/Odile and Kitri and both Bayadere roles.

When Darcey Bussell danced Balanchine with the NYCB (I think she danced "Agon" and a few other ballets around 1993 to 1995 as a guest) the critics lined up to praise her, no reservations. I think her long leggy body, understated style, laid-back stage personality and sharp-edged contemporary athleticism mixed with precision and musicality was a perfect fit. I remember she had glamor that wasn't "pushy" or flamboyant and brought some needed lyricism and grace that only the other Darci, Darci Kistler, could match back then. Bussell seemed technically strong but not hitting you over the head with her technique which was subsumed into the choreography.

I don't think many of us have gotten to see how Darcey matured at the Royal because she was injured or pregnant during a few of the U.S. visits which have gotten less frequent in the last eight years or so. I would be curious to know what she did with a role like Giselle or the MacMillan Juliet and Manon. Those are roles that a ballerina can grow up with. I know that her technical ability suffered a bit after the birth of her daughter.

I recently watched her performance of Balanchine's "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux" with Zoltan Solymosi on a Kultur VHS of a "Tchaikovsky Gala" (which oddly includes Rachmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakov and Puccini music!) at Covent Garden which combined international opera soloists and members of the Royal Ballet (including Lesley Collier, Teddy Kumakawa, Viviana Durante, Bruce Sansom, Adam Cooper, Leanne Benjamin, Irek Mukhamedhov and others) doing various Tchaikovsky pas de deuxs from Petipa to MacMillan interspersed between various operatic vocal excerpts. Bussell seems at her best here - bringing a fresh, Spring-like exuberance and clean, elegant joy to the choreography. The upper body flows nicely and she seems fully engaged with the material. Lots of beautiful moments connected by lovely, flowing phrasing.

She is a dancer I want to get another chance to see. Her small appearance in "The Awakening Pas de Deux" during the Ashton festival made me feel I had missed something very special over the years including her Aurora and her Sylvia and much more. I hope she gets to New York a few times before she hangs up her slippers. I was hoping maybe ABT would offer her a contract to do her Sylvia and maybe a Giselle and Juliet in New York but with Vishneva their quota of international star ballerinas is full.

Faux Pas

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Unfortunately, the only time I saw Bussell perform live was early in her career and at the time I found her dancing a little bit gauche. Her Lilac Fairy compared unfavourably with Maria Almeida's Aurora, much in the same way that her Gamzatti on video seemed crass when compared to Asylmuratova's Nikiya. (I agree with beck hen there.)

But like FauxPas I'm sorry I didn't get the chance to see Bussell as her career developed. She's obviously extremely gifted, and I'm sure that choreographers and the Royal Ballet's management found ways to put her talents to excellent use.

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