COVER Darcey Bussell
Strictly judge Dame Darcey Bussell on the magic of dance, getting the most out of the contestants and the positives of getting older
Former prima ballerina, the recently enobled Dame Darcey Bussell, is such a fragrant fixture on Strictly Come Dancing, it’s difficult to remember a time when she wasn’t gracing the judging panel. She lends a certain class to proceedings, sandwiched between Craig ‘Mr Nasty’ Revel Horwood, Her Bluntless Shirley Ballas, and the flamboyant yet sometimes poisoned-tongued Bruno Tonioli. Darcey, however, is unfailingly positive toward the celebrity contestants. So, is she primed by producers to take on this ‘nice’ judge role? It would seem not...
“I just do what I feel,” she has said. “For me, it’s about having empathy and understanding; it doesn’t matter about skill. I respect people putting the effort in and I want to get the best out of them. I believe you get that if you’re fair and supportive. It’s easier to be negative than positive. I don’t want to dishearten somebody so that they have no hope, so why make it terrifying for them?
“I have to say – having been coached all my life and getting lots
of criticism – these were the kind of comments that made me want to come back better. I feel I should give them that motivation and I enjoy doing all I can to boost that person.”
Darcey has admitted in the past how she would love to be allowed to train the celebrities on Strictly. “It would be more natural if I was in the studio with them. I find it hard behind the desk; I’m a mover.”
Darcey may have been a Strictly judge for seven years but sometimes, her fellow judges can surprise her with their comments.
“Especially Craig,” she says. ‘Weirdly, I still don’t always know how he’s going to score. He might give a dance a three when he’s given the impression he quite likes it. We might all disagree with how each other scores a performance but we all really get on. Shirley has a great sense of humour and is hysterical. I also totally respect her amazing amount of knowledge. Craig and Bruno are such gentlemen.
‘I respect people putting the effort in and I want to get the best out of that person. I believe you get that if you’re fair and supportive’
When the show is over, we never stop talking about the show and discussing performances with each other.
The dresses Darcey wears on Strictly are always fab-u-lous. The two dresses she wears at weekends are rented from designers. “I have fittings during the week. I like dresses I don’t have to do anything in but I absolutely love a wardrobe and, to me, Strictly feels like putting on a costume and giving a performance.
“All the celebrities get the dance bug. You can see the joy in their faces. That’s what dance does for you. Being part of Strictly is like being part of another dance company. I feel that everything I missed about being in The Royal Ballet I get an element of with the show. Everybody is working for the same goal, which is lovely. ”
As the show nears the halfway mark, the competition is hotting up but there are no clear favourites to lift the trophy. “There’s so much talent out there,” Darcey said recently. “So much potential, strength and skill – and such a buzz in the air among the couples. It’s impossible to call – but I’m hoping it will be a girl that wins this year.”
Next year Darcey, who is married to businessman Angus Forbes and has two daughters, Phoebe (17) and Zoe (14), turns 50. She looks a good ten years younger and we think she can’t be feeling too concerned about entering her sixth decade.
She says: “I think when you’re older you’re more confident but you have to have an attitude. Work out how to stay healthy, vibrant and energised. I’m not somebody who does a diet, but I know the camera adds about eight pounds so when I’m doing Strictly I try to keep to more protein than carbs and stay off bread or pasta a bit. I go to Zumba classes to pick myself up, have fun and laugh. If you love music, then you love to move, and movement is so essential to our bodies and how we feel. We need that get-up-and-go feeling and if you don’t move your body you’ll get sluggish. When it comes to ageing, though, I intend to grow old gracefully.”
Dame Darcey, you couldn’t possibly do it any other way.
■ strictly Come dancing is on saturday and sunday nights, bbC1 and strictly: It takes two is on weekdays, 6.30pm, bbC2
Hubby angus with their daughters Phoebe and Zoe and below, darcey in a royal ballet production of swan lake in1992