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Darcey Bussell,

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News on books by Bussell:

  • The paperback edition of Pilates for Life is available for pre-order on amazon.com for release on 25 April 2007
  • Darcey Bussell's Dance Body Workout, published 2007 in paperback, is available from Dance Books Ltd.

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News on books by Bussell:
  • The paperback edition of Pilates for Life is available for pre-order on amazon.com for release on 25 April 2007
  • Darcey Bussell's Dance Body Workout, published 2007 in paperback, is available from Dance Books Ltd.

No "My Life as Aurora", huh??????

Well she seems to be moving in some different career directions that seem to give her fullfillment.

No rut for her.

I say, "good for her".

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I couldn't agree more with what leonid said about "[she] has added no depth to her performances..."

For me, I just get a cold feeling whenever I see her, esp. her pictures and live perf.

I saw her perform "Pavane for a Dead Princess" live in London's ROH in April 2005 (w/ Jonathon Cope) and was very dissappointed. I remember thinking that she was only dancing steps - not becoming part of the music. Even if she had a sorrowful face and seemed emotional, all of it seemed impassive to me, with no depth nor soul connected to it.

Perhaps it was the music she didn't connect to? (Pavane is one of my favorite pieces by my fav. composer - I would have a different expression and feeling to it since I can relate to the music, than if someone else just had to dance to it.)

I would have though that having children would bring more depth due to experience. But it looks like it went the opposite way. It was like she was a "normal woman" than a dancer. I watched Pavane clips on her website (http://www.darceybussell.com - under 'fan club') before I saw her live, and thought she looked better in the clips. At ROH I had set the standard to see at least what I saw in those clips, and was let down. Is this due to age? to her birth?

However, I have seen her on the DVD "Ballet Favorites" in "The Prince of Pagodas - Act III PDD" w/ J. Cope and really enjoyed it. Her footwork, chaines [turns], lines were wonderful. But I think this was in 1998 (i haven't watched it in a while).

I don't know the date of her "Pavane" clips, but I have to say I liked her better on these videos than live, maybe it is her age, since P.of P. was around '98. So, I would have to disagree with Leigh's review quoted by Bart (on the first page)

But how could older age have less emotional connection? ?? Is it only the camera that loves her and not me?

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Or sometimes a dancer just has an off night, can't get the body to do what she wants, a touch of flu, etc. Happens to the best of 'em.

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But her technique and placement seemed spot on that night. Jumps were high, turns were good. It's that emotional depth that I can't find.

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Or sometimes a dancer just has an off night, can't get the body to do what she wants, a touch of flu, etc. Happens to the best of 'em.

It could be, but in that case I should complain to have had off nights only from her (quite a lot indeed). :off topic:

She is a good technician, with good jumps and turns, but I don't like her upper body and arms at all.

IMHO she is in no way an actress or a moving dancer, even if she could be really nice to watch in some ballets.

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When I saw her in "A Month in the Country" (a little less than two years ago) I was very impressed and even surprized by the suppleness of her upper body--she really looked like an Ashton dancer. The choreography looked utterly 'alive' and filled out. I can't say she had the dramatic "depth" in the role that Guillem brought a few nights later (nor did Guillem have anything like Bussell's supple upper body) but she gave a touching account of it nonetheless. With Bussell I think, in any case, that the depth is IN the dancing. She obviously is not everyone's cup of tea, but I find her a wonderfully compelling dancer. I'm also one of those who thought her performances in Agon with NYCB were more or less the best thing I had seen at the State theater of that time since the retirement of Farrell--and the innocent-yet-erotic quality that invested her dancing was extraordinary.

I will add that clips of her in Sylvia from BBC look just terrific.

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A decade ago I saw her at the Met in the Royal's Cinderella, back when it was still the real one. Happened to be sitting next to a woman who's written extensively on NYCB. At intermission we looked at each other and said "Farrell!" Not just for her beauty and dancing. Farrell is the most moving dancer I have ever seen, so for me Darcey is very moving. At NYCB her Agon, of course, and both roles in A Midsummer Night's Dream were also very compelling.

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drb--I saw Bussell in Cinderella at the Met as well. I loved her performance and in addition to her dancing I especially remember her very tender mime farewell to the 'nicer' of her two stepsisters. She smiled so sweetly without becoming sacharine...just lovely.

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drb--I saw Bussell in Cinderella at the Met as well...

From Jennifer Dunning's Times review of that memorable performance:

...Ms. Bussell's dancing is a rare blend of simplicity, elegance and unforced technical virtuosity....she embodies the company's unforced embrace of classical dancing as a royal birthright. The effect is both wondrous and refreshing.

Ms. Bussell is an atypical forlorn waif, so big and forthright is her dancing. But her Cinderella was utterly believable, a wise child with moments of endearing spunkiness whose quick, high extension reminded one audience member of children's eager arms shooting up to answer classroom questions.

Her airy descent of the ballroom stairs and her growing joy, captured in one of Ms. Bussell's signature big, blooming arabesques, suggested a young girl's discovery of her love not just of a handsome young prince but also of the act of dancing itself. Her third-act Cinderella was torn, though gently, between delicate hesitation and new boldness.

The schedulers-that-be at the Met stuck Cinders as a matinee ballet, probably thought it was for children.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html...754C0A961958260

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[ ... ] more or less the best thing I had seen at the State theater of that time since the retirement of Farrell--and the innocent-yet-erotic quality that invested her dancing was extraordinary.
At intermission we looked at each other and said "Farrell!" Not just for her beauty and dancing. Farrell is the most moving dancer I have ever seen, so for me Darcey is very moving.
This may explain my fascination with Bussell -- the impulse which got me to start this thread so long ago.

I can't speak to the matter of what they share technically. I'm thinking of the way their dancing suggests a rich inner existence being experienced as they they move through space -- a calmness (even in allegro) and deep pleasure in the act of dancing. Like the practioners of certain religions, they draw strength and meaning from within, though this has nothing in common with self-reliance or self-expression. It's also quite distinct, also, from the emotionalism or piety or various kinds of projecting outward that usually passes for "spiritual" in the vocabulary of dance journalists.

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News on books by Bussell:
  • The paperback edition of Pilates for Life is available for pre-order on amazon.com for release on 25 April 2007
  • Darcey Bussell's Dance Body Workout, published 2007 in paperback, is available from Dance Books Ltd.

I saw and perused both books, which were on sale at the ROH store, and in Borders, when I was in London last week. Interesting thing about the Pilates book, the warm-up was basic Pilates, however the latter half of the book was essentially a complete ballet barre done while lying supine with her feet pressed against the wall. Not quite Pilates, but still a good workout, though modified for aging bodies not classically trained?

Anyways, maybe Borders or amazon.uk will have them available sooner than the U.S. debut dates if you're interested.

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Interesting - her Pilates for Life video/dvd is different then! It is a good dvd - and an intense workout.

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Quotes from the cover article, "Turning Point" by Valerie Lawson in the Good Weekend magazine of The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 September 2008, Cover photo and pages 18-22.

In July, Bussell, with her husband, became a shareholder in a newly registered company, Daltina. That seems to signal a new business venture, perhaps involving their plan to market a number of BBC-TV films of her performances at the Royal Opera House.

* * *

She is also planning to update her autobiography published a decade ago, and next month HarperCollins will publish six of a planned 12 books for girls under eight, in which the heroine, a little dancer called Delphie, joins a curious old ballet school run by Madam Zarakova and enters a magical world called Enchantia.

HarperCollins in London came up with the concept, asked Bussell to lend her name as author, and enlisted an English ghost writer. Bussell gave advice on the ballet steps described in the books and checked the illustrations, objecting to the original depiction of Madam Zarakova "as skinny, tall, dressed all in grey with her hair straight back in a terrible bun. I said, 'I'm really sorry but I don't remember any of my teachers like that', so I described how I wanted her to be."

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I have been lucky enough to see Darcey Bussell in practically every role she has danced for the Royal Ballet since 1992 & have no truck with the comments that say she never deepened her performances, interpretations or technique. Her Aurora was special & the way she phrased the choreography was unique that I have never seen anyone better it & her Odette/Odile certainly grew & matured over the years especially with her epaulement in her last show in 2005 which was so expressive & fluid as to be a revelation. There are no other RB dancers that come close to matching her use of epaulement in this role. I also saw her dance Prince of the Pagodas & Winter Dreams & can report that there was a reason MacMillan used her lovely arabesques as a leitmotif- they tell a story on their own & are quite simply beautiful tobehold.

She was also a gifted Balanchine interpreter with her Terpsichore in Apollo being particularly effective & her sexually charged Agon & 4 Temperaments. Her dancing in these ballets has often divided audiences who like to see her in the narrative ballets, but I believe one of her strengths was that her training enabled her to turn her hand & feet to any style & ballet she was cast in. She found drama in Balanchine & choreographers clearly loved working with her. Most of Wheeldon's ballets are hymns to her qualities.

She succeeded with R&J & Giselle when critics said she was too tall or not suited to these ballets & after the birth of her 2 girls she returned to the stage stronger than ever technically & with new dramatic insights. Anyone who witnessed her Requiem or Das Lied von Der Erde couldn't deny that her performances were empty or lacking feeling because they weren't.

I can understand why she retired when she did at her peak, but really we could have had one or 2 more seasons socking gorgeous performances to us across the footlights. Our loss is Australia's gain!!

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It was produced eleven years ago, but Classical TV has posted this BBC profile of Darcey Bussell. It's about an hour long and is divided into two parts. At the conclusion of the first part, you should get a station ID, followed by the second half of the program.

http://www.classicaltv.com/video/166/darce...ssell-a-profile

Apropos the BT discussion about the glamour ladies of ballet, the program brings up all sorts of issues about ballerina image.

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I have been lucky enough to see Darcey Bussell in practically every role she has danced for the Royal Ballet since 1992 & have no truck with the comments that say she never deepened her performances, interpretations or technique. Her Aurora was special & the way she phrased the choreography was unique that I have never seen anyone better it & her Odette/Odile certainly grew & matured over the years especially with her epaulement in her last show in 2005 which was so expressive & fluid as to be a revelation. There are no other RB dancers that come close to matching her use of epaulement in this role. I also saw her dance Prince of the Pagodas & Winter Dreams & can report that there was a reason MacMillan used her lovely arabesques as a leitmotif- they tell a story on their own & are quite simply beautiful tobehold.

She was also a gifted Balanchine interpreter with her Terpsichore in Apollo being particularly effective & her sexually charged Agon & 4 Temperaments. Her dancing in these ballets has often divided audiences who like to see her in the narrative ballets, but I believe one of her strengths was that her training enabled her to turn her hand & feet to any style & ballet she was cast in. She found drama in Balanchine & choreographers clearly loved working with her. Most of Wheeldon's ballets are hymns to her qualities.

She succeeded with R&J & Giselle when critics said she was too tall or not suited to these ballets & after the birth of her 2 girls she returned to the stage stronger than ever technically & with new dramatic insights. Anyone who witnessed her Requiem or Das Lied von Der Erde couldn't deny that her performances were empty or lacking feeling because they weren't.

I can understand why she retired when she did at her peak, but really we could have had one or 2 more seasons socking gorgeous performances to us across the footlights. Our loss is Australia's gain!!

The problem for me and for others was that Miss Bussell never fulfilled the ballerina status in any sense of the word and I saw her dance every role she was given by the Royal Ballet. She was for me a marketed product that was not that well bought, by the regular knowledgeable paying audience.

She was not a Kolpakova or an Osipenko, nor a Komleva or Yevteyeva or a Bessmertnova, or a Maximova or Ananiashvilli nor a Asylmuratova, not even a Nerina and definitely not Sibley that alone a Wells and certainly not a Seymour, Beriosova, Samsova, Haydee or a Chauvire or Fonteyn. There are also a good few others to mention that were greater artists than Miss Bussell.

I give her full marks for trying as it is impossible not to give her full marks for trying. Sadly upon often viewing, that is what she became for me, trying.

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:) Simon G's reply to leonid was inadvertently deleted and cannot be retrieved. I pm'd you, Simon, explaining and apologizing. It would be wonderful if you could repost. Your approach to Bussell's career at the Royal raises issues that haven't appeared in this thread so far.

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At 3.00 am I was suddenly wide awake from a deep sleep and I immediately thought I would reply to Simon G and I penned something and then discovered I could not find his post to answer points he had raised.

As I was awake I ploughed on.

I can only write from the point of view of my own appreciation of individual dancers which has been formed by greater connoisseurs of the art than me and the dancers I have seen.

To become a ballerina, one expects a principal dancer to have much more than the technique or the ability to give a fully dramatic evocation of a role. They have to suspend their off-stage personality to achieve an envelopment of a role in a process that suspends the critical faculty of the audience, drawing them in to that highly achieved creative act of both the story telling choreographer and the significant composer.

Many dancers can exhibit the technique required for a role and many can add a layer of dramatic expression that catches an unsophisticated audience who become emotionally linked with a performance.

It is here, that the blurring of the lines between a dancer and a ballerina becomes difficult to ascertain. Has there been the appropriate technical expression or have we only seen perhaps, the outstanding technical ability of a particular dancer. Or, have we seen a brilliant dramatic theatrical expression that goes beyond the balletic expression.

There have been in my time a number of powerfully dramatic principal dancers whose metier, given they had a voice to match, seemed more appropriate to the legitimate theatre. The blurring of the lines is a difficult one for a ballet connoisseur when spectacular dramatic force of a performer is witnessed. If I particularise such dancers as Lynn Seymour, Marcia Haydee and Alexandra Ferri, two of these important dancers, despite their full-bloodied dramatic performances, never went beyond what was generally considered acceptable but one other, left the role behind and we witnessed a performer laying on layer after layer of dramatic expression which pleased an unknowledgeable audience.

It is in the becoming of the role in either a seemingly minor or major key, here one might example Beriosova and Seymour, that the dancers complete mastery of transforming story telling as a truly balletic art form, enables them to triumph.

A ballerina is a dancer who in performance selflessly commits herself to become a role at a level where you stop seeing the dancer as a person as they become one with the art of the choreographer and composer meeting them at an equivalent level of inspiration.

I have friends who always found Darcey Bussell to be the perennial school-girl even when the role was clearly that of a mature woman. I know what they mean, although I cannot absolutely concur with this opinion. I think it was something to do with the athleticism of Miss Bussell’s build and her attack on the choreography, which lacked an organic expression.

Miss Bussell was a hardworking dancer of that there is no doubt and her physical attraction was undoubtedly recognisable to many in an audience. In London, it appeared to me that she had a strong female following. For me it was in the lack of her becoming a role and instead performing the role that always found me applauding her because her achievements were real, but I never cheered her. Darcey Bussell was a significant dancer, of that there is no doubt. Ballerina? Not for me.

Darcey Bussell in her last years with the Royal was in competition as a favourite dancer with Tamara Rojo and Alina Cojocaru. She retired aged 38 remaining a very English type of girl and woman and I think that was part of her attraction to a large section of the audience in London and perhaps elsewhere.

Alistair Macaulay gave her a valedictory review in the NYT for her last performance with the Royal Ballet.

PS

Now that the sun is rising I am going back to bed.

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Here is the inadvertently deleted post, bu SIMON G. (Note that originally it preceded Leonid's post above, and many thanks to our poster who forwarded us the text. It was in the email notification sent to those who'd subscribed to the thread.)

Here's Simon's post:

Leonid,

I think it's kind of unfair to lay so much blame on Bussell, I do agree

that she never became what she could have done, but she came to

prominence in that incredibly difficult period of Dowell's directorship

when he didn't have a clue what to do with a company which had been

bruised and battered by previous artisitic mis-management and sadly

Dowell himself seemed equally clueless as to developing talent.

All those Royal ballerinas you mention had one thing in common, Ninette

De Valois who had a genius of finding and nurturing ballerinas.

Bussell wasn't the only casualty of Dowell's regime and indeed she

faired considerably better than most; Dowell was in thrall to Guillem at

the expense of his own dancers, he never hot housed talent or pushed

them technically in any meaningful way, the quality of male dancing

deteriorated to rock bottom and he destroyed the Royals classical

heritage, or what was left of it by production designs of such egregious

excess for the classics - and I don't think it was intentional on his

part, he just didn't have the cujones or eye to lead the company

properly.

Bussell was a potential ballerina in a company led by a man who didn't

know what to do with ballerinas. Guillem got to do whatever she wanted

and indeed the success of her career with the Royal was down to her

micro-management - she didn't put up with any crap, whereas Bussell by

her own admission felt obliged to be a good girl and do whatever was

asked of her - her career was no less aimless than the company itself.

The only other ballerina of note promoted of Dowell Sarah Wildor had

been so neglected in terms of developing her technique she was unable to

dance the classics. ---Simon G

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Here is the inadvertently deleted post, bu SIMON G. (Note that originally it preceded Leonid's post above, and many thanks to our poster who forwarded us the text. It was in the email notification sent to those who'd subscribed to the thread.)

Here's Simon's post:

Leonid,

I think it's kind of unfair to lay so much blame on Bussell, ...

I re-read my post and I think I do not lay personal blame on Miss Bussell but merely comment that she did not for me become a real interpretative artist. I think in my later post I confirm her abilities but they were for me left wanting.

I agree with your analysis of the Dowell regime, but I would also say I feel there was a desperation in the camp to present a leading English dancer of the Royal Ballet as a proto ballerina. What you say about her lack of appropriate development by Dowell, may well have played a part in her not reaching greater heights. I personally never saw such a potential in Miss Bussell.

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Darcey Bussell was like the other Darci, Darci Kistler, in that she was the final muse of a major choreographer - Darci for Balanchine and Darcey for Kenneth MacMillan. Though I am not sure that "Winter Dreams" and "The Prince of the Pagodas" are major ballets, I think that with his death she was left without a guiding artistic force. Also, Darcey seems to me to have at a certain point put a lot of energy into her personal life and family which many other ballerinas (many in Leonid's list) decided to forego to concentrate on their careers.

I don't know how much Darcey Bussell grew as an actress but I think that the Royal Ballet repertoire favors dance actresses. A pure technician isn't going to thrive there or shine in large parts of their repertoire. I think that after her baby, Bussell lost some of her technical ability and depended on personal charm.

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I seem to remember that Prince of the Pagodas became a major ballet when Nina Ananiashvili danced the lead.

What struck me most about Bussell's career was that it was very media driven and that her time with the RB coincided with a big push to sell the company to the general public. If I remember rightly, pre-Bussell it was Bryony Brind a dancer with a lot more potential who was wheeled out for media attention, but there was far more attention focussed on Bussell than there ever was on Brind.

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I don't think that for a ballet dancer the alternative need be dance actress versus pure technician. There is a kind of dancer who may not be a great "actress" in the manner of Haydee or Seymour, but whose movement has an interpretive power and grace, a richness of quality, beauty of line and shape, and/or responsiveness to music that the phrase "pure technician" does not really capture (though I think I understand what Faux Pas was getting at...). Farrell was not an "actress" but she immersed herself nonetheless within the roles she danced becoming a great interpreter of choreography and music. The way she lifted her leg could impact one viscerally in a way no "pure technician" could match. (Of course she did it most successfully in a particular repertory--what ballerina does not?)

For me, Bussell was a ballerina of this kind--not a dance actress but by no means a "pure technician." The "creamy" quality of her movement and the unstudied freshness she brought to her interpretations gave her dancing a special radiance. And in Agon, for example, she gave a unique and great interpretation that had nothing to do with being an actress OR a technician but everything to do with being a great dancer in service to great choreography.

In Prince of the Pagodas, too, she seems to have inspired Macmillan in the final pas de deux to a renewed neo-classicism--I was inspired just watching her in that pas de deux. In nineteenth-century classics, she also made an impression especially as Aurora in which her radiance and freshness was ideal. Not surprisingly she was similarly wonderful in Ashton's Cinderella, the tender sweetness of her farewell to the bumbling step sister being one of my most treasured ballet images. (Apologies for some repetition of what I have said above ...) At a performance of Bayadere I attended, she did not seem to me to be fully comfortable in the Shades scene, but brought lush lyrical sensuality and tenderness to her Act I and a more ghostly allure to Act III. I saw her in several other memorable performances (other Balanchine, Petipa-Ivanov, Ashton, and Wheeldon). In my eyes, she was definitely a ballerina.

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