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Darcey Bussell,why so little "talk" about her on Ballet Talk


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#16 skylark

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Posted 18 November 2006 - 03:52 AM

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!

#17 bart

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Posted 18 November 2006 - 04:41 AM

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.

#18 carbro

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Posted 18 November 2006 - 07:59 PM

:jawdrop: Leigh is all over the net! :jawdrop:

Try --->this.

#19 bart

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Posted 18 November 2006 - 08:41 PM

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.c...tchel/dance.htm

#20 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 18 November 2006 - 11:15 PM

Wow. It's weird to read that stuff 10 years later. For the record I'd say my opinion has developed on English Ballet since then.

http://www.leighwitc...on_viewing.html

And I hope my writing has as well.

#21 beck_hen

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Posted 19 November 2006 - 10:55 PM

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.

#22 Mel Johnson

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Posted 20 November 2006 - 04:21 AM

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.

#23 bart

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Posted 20 November 2006 - 07:25 AM

[ ... ] 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:

#24 FauxPas

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Posted 21 November 2006 - 10:36 AM

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

#25 volcanohunter

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Posted 21 November 2006 - 11:32 AM

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.

#26 ami1436

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Posted 21 November 2006 - 01:16 PM

volcanohunter, I'd LOVE to hear about Almeida's Aurora (sorry for the OT).

I only started watching the RB about 3-4 years ago.... and unfortunately, despite her stellar technique, Bussell is just not one who grabs me somehow. She was, however, stellar in Raymonda Act III, and I have liked her in some neoclassical work.

I finally felt that I 'got' her at the last performance of the season, before she became a guest artist, dancing in Winter Dreams with Bolle. Here, we didnt' just see the steps done technically brilliantly, but art - words in motion. Brilliant stuff.

And then I left frustrated - thinking that if she could do that.... why I only ever saw it once.

#27 bart

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Posted 21 November 2006 - 01:16 PM

The smile is kind of "I want you to like me" and not "I am the star and you need only look here".

Marvellous choice of words. We've all seen lots of the latter type. The contrast is, indeed, one of the things that makes Bussell so fascinating.

#28 Mashinka

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Posted 24 November 2006 - 05:39 AM

Next week Darcey Bussell will be appearing in a series of performances with Igor Zelensky at Sadlers Wells and today The Independent features her on the cover of its arts supplement (Arts and Books Review) Here is the link:

http://enjoyment.ind...icle2008024.ece

There are strong hints that Ms B. will actually be retiring from the RB in June next year, but she's had quite a good season this year and was outstanding in Violin Concerto and The Four Temperaments. I tend to avoid her in the classics as they are not her forte, but in the modern and neo classical rep she was and is excellent.

The opening anecdote about an overheard conversation on a train is uncannily similar to something I overheard on a train whilst going into work a few months ago. Apparently the man I overheard talking has a pal in the ROH box office and he was relating how after a TV appearance on a talk show, the box office was swamped with requests for tickets to see Bussell in what had up till then been an undersold programme. He was telling the story to illustrate the power of television, but it gives some idea of how famous Bussell has become over the years thanks to a persistent PR campaign on her behalf by the ROH.

#29 leonid17

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Posted 24 November 2006 - 09:05 AM

There are strong hints that Ms B. will actually be retiring from the RB in June next year, but she's had quite a good season this year and was outstanding in Violin Concerto and The Four Temperaments. I tend to avoid her in the classics as they are not her forte, but in the modern and neo classical rep she was and is excellent.

The opening anecdote about an overheard conversation on a train is uncannily similar to something I overheard on a train whilst going into work a few months ago. Apparently the man I overheard talking has a pal in the ROH box office and he was relating how after a TV appearance on a talk show, the box office was swamped with requests for tickets to see Bussell in what had up till then been an undersold programme. He was telling the story to illustrate the power of television, but it gives some idea of how famous Bussell has become over the years thanks to a persistent PR campaign on her behalf by the ROH.


I absolutely agree with Mashinka as to Miss Bussell really being a neo-classical ballet dancer and it was voiced by a number of ballet lovers in London shortly after her joining the RB that the best company for her was NYCB.

I have continued to watch her in the classical ballet repertoire in the hope that this highly talented dancer would make the grade. I never disliked her in the classics but felt that with a teacher of abilty at the early stage of her career she might been happier in the classic repertoire and given more successful performances.

In a triple bill at the ROH recently I felt that she had at last understood her body and used her undoubted skills brilliantly. I am sorry to hear that she may be leaving the RB as she is the only famous dancer in the company, whilst Alina Cojcaru is probably the most most admired along with Rojo and Nunez.

#30 Paul Parish

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Posted 24 November 2006 - 01:02 PM

It's a fun interview -- she has a distinct personality, actually SOUNDS kinda NYCB, a little like Tanaquil Leclerc -- well, just a little, but it's frank and as you'd expect rather athletic, the energy is right up front. She even talks happily about liking having competition. I was glad to read it.


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