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.