Darcy Bussell Biography

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The retired English ballet dancer is set to return to UK screens as the next female judge on Strictly Come Dancing on 16 September. Let's take a look at her career so far.

One of the greatest English ballerinas of all time, Darcy Bussell was born Marnie Mercedes Darcey Pembleton Crittle on 27 April 1969 in London. Her mother Andrea undertook ballet dancing training with the Royal Ballet School herself, which perhaps encouraged her daughter to do the same. Andrea then tried out modelling, acting and owning a fashion store.

Darcey's father John Crittle was a businessman. The couple broke up when Darcey was three-years-old and her mother remarried. A young Darcey was then adopted by her mother's new husband Australian dentist Philip Bussell.

The family spent some time in Australia before moving back to the UK for Darcey's education. She was a keen sportswoman at school and played football with the boy's team. Darcey also won competitions for swimming and gymnastics while she was growing up.

She started her performing career when she started studying at the Arts Educational School at the Barbican where she had a flair for dance. As a result, she auditioned for the Royal Ballet School at White Lodge. Darcey won one of the eight places on offer at the relatively late age of 13. Ballet dancers tend to start training at a much younger age.

As Darcey was slightly behind the other girls technically as they had started training at the age of 11, she spent any free time she had training and practising her dancing. She even signed up for some lessons with the legendary ballerina Svetlana Beriosovo during the summer. All this hard work paid off as she was accepted at the Royal Ballet's Upper School at Barons Court in 1985 when she was aged 16 years.

The late Kenneth MacMilian noticed her exceptional technique while she was still at school and he gave her the leading role in his 1988 ballet The Prince of the Pagados, which led to her move to the Royal Ballet. In December 1989, Darcey was promoted to Principal dancer becoming the youngest ballerina to be given this honour at the time.

In October 1992, a South Bank show documentary about Darcey and her fellow Principal Viviana Durante was broadcast on TV. She was also seen in several televised galas such as The Prince of Pagados and Queen Mother's 90th Birthday Tribute. Her next TV appearances occurred in October 1998 when she was the subject of BBC One's Omnibus before featuring in a Carmen dance for the Lesley Garrett Show.

In December 2004, Darcey starred in the televised version of Sleeping Beauty and then featured in the full-length ballet of Sylvia, which was shown on TV on 25 December 2005. She hasn't just stuck to dancing on the TV screen, though, as she has also made cameos in French and Saunders, The Vicar of Dibley, The House and Clive Anderson's Programme.

Going back to her ballet career, Darcey was voted Dancer of the Year by the readers of Dance and Dancers magazine before being presented with the Variety Club of Great Britain's Sir James Garreras Award for the most promising newcomer of 1990 in February the following year. One week later, she was given the Evening Standard Ballet Award for 1990 before being voted the joint winner of the Cosmopolitan Achievement Award in the Performing Arts.

As well as dancing in shows and on-screen, Darcey has boosted her profile by appearing in television adverts for American Express and Lloyds TSB. She has also been photographed by leaders in the field such as Mario Testino and Lord Snowdon. Like her mother before her, Darcey has been the face of several modelling campaigns.

These include modelling Marks & Spencer's View From range between 2002 and 2004 as well as fronting campaigns for Dunhill Watches, Mulberry, Harvey Nicols and Audi. Darcey has graced the front covers of GQ, Tatler and Harpers magazines.

There is a full-length portrait of the ballerina by the artist Allen Jones Royal Academian at the National Portrait Gallery. It was unveiled on 23 May 1994. Darcey was also awarded the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1995 and was later made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2006.

In the same year 2006, Darcey announced her retirement as Principal dancer of the Royal Ballet. She remained with the prestigious company as a guest dancer until her final performance in Song of the Earth on 8 June 2007.It was performed at the Royal Opera House and broadcast on BBC Two. She received a standing ovation and many flowers were thrown onto the stage.

The following year, Darcey teamed up with Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins to put on the musical Viva La Diva, which paid tribute to the stars that inspired them. The show toured in November and December 2007, selling £2 million worth of tickets, and almost filling up with two weeks of the tickets being released. They sold out ten UK arenas, including two shows at London's O2 in May 2008.

It was then featured in the Royal Variety performance and the subject of a South Bank documentary in November 2007.The musical's DVD was released in November 2008.

Darcey has also turned her hand to writing and created the Magic Ballerina series, which is aimed at girls aged between five and eight-years-old. The first book was published in October 2008.

In 2009, she appeared on the BBC One show Strictly Come Dancing as a guest judge and danced a jive with professional dancer Ian Waite in the semi-final of the competition. She returned as a guest judge in 2011 and on 25 April 2012, it was confirmed that Darcey will become a permanent member of the judging panel when the series starts on 16 September. She will be replacing previous female judge Alesha Dixon.

On 12 August 2012, Darcey appeared at the London 2012 Closing Ceremony with a troupe of 200 ballerinas.

In terms of her personal life, she married merchant baker Angus Forbes in Oxfordshire in 1997. Their daughter Phoebe Olivia was born in 2001 and her sister Zoe Sophia was born in 2004. They lived in Kensington before relocating to Forbes' home country Australia in 2008 before returning to London in July this year.

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