Darcey Bussell was born in London and trained at the Royal Ballet School during which time the late Sir Kenneth MacMillan noticed her exceptional technique and in 1988 gave her the leading role in his ballet ‘The Prince of The Pagodas’, causing her to move to The Royal Ballet from Sadler’s Well Royal Ballet after only one year there. A year later in December 1989, on the opening night of the show she was promoted to Principal, at the time the youngest ballerina to be given this honour.
In 1990 she was voted Dancer of the Year by readers of Dance and Dancers Magazine, Winner of the Evening Standard Award for Ballet and Winner of the Variety Club’s Sir James Garreras Award for The Most Promising Newcomer.
A full-length portrait of her by the artist Allen Jones RA was commissioned by Britain’s National Portrait Gallery and unveiled on 3 May 1994.
Darcey was created an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1995 and subsequently a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2006.
In 2007 she retired from ballet with a final performance of MacMillan’s Song of the Earth performed at the Royal Opera House and broadcast live on BBC 2.
She has been featured in television documentaries in Britain including the BBC documentary about her called ‘Britain’s Ballerina’ (2005); appeared in numerous televised ballet galas and TV programmes such as French and Saunders, The Vicar of Dibley, The House, and Clive Anderson; featured in television commercials and on the cover of magazines such as Tatler and Harpers and Queen; featured in modelling assignments and has been photographed by some of the world’s most renowned photographers.
In 2007, Darcey teamed up with Katherine Jenkins to create and perform in the musical Viva La Diva. She created the Magic Ballerina books for young girls, first released in October 2008. A Photographic book of her ballet career was launched in 2012, and she came out of retirement to dance in the closing ceremony of the London Olympic games. She is currently a judge on the TV show Strictly Come Dancing in England.