She’s Britain’s best-known modern ballerina, and that’s thanks only in part to her role as a judge on the hugely popular ballroom dancing series Strictly Come Dancing. Now bringing the magic of ballet to life in a series of children’s books, Darcey Bussell will speak about her life as a ballerina in two sessions at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, perfect for anyone who loves dance, whatever their age.
Q. Do you often get the chance to speak to the public about your life, and what’s it usually like?
A. I talk about my dancing life mainly. I am interested in supporting all dance and endorsing awareness of it as a healthy activity for the entire body and soul.
Q. What do people ask most often? And what would you really like them to know about you?
A. Do I still dance? Even though I have been retired for seven years! And how passionate I am about dance — it’s the easiest thing for me to sell.
Q. You’re the author of several children’s books about ballet. How did these come about? Why did you choose to set them in a fantasy genre?
A. I started them because I have two children of my own and they have their own dance experiences. It felt right to be in a fantasy genre as dancing is all about creating magic.
Q. What’s next for the series?
A. Hopefully a children’s theatre show based on the stories of the dancers.
Q. Which of the characters is your favourite, and why?
A. I think they all have something to give — perhaps the street hip hop dancer who falls in love with ballet, called Jade.
Q. What kind of feedback have you had from readers? Who is the audience?
A. A lot of children enjoy learning to read with the books because they basically LOVE dance. The audience is mainly children aged from five to ten but parents can always read the books to their children before the children can read them themselves.
Q. Would you consider writing fiction about ballet in a real-world setting, either for children or adults?
A. Yes — why not!
Q. Did you ever read ballet fiction when you were growing up, and did this have an influence on you? My favourite was the Drina series.
A. Not fiction, no, but I would read about ballerinas and their lives and all about the companies they were part of.
Q. Ballet has a huge appeal to young women. Why do you think that is? What’s the most important message about a life in the ballet that you want to get across?
A. The confidence you gain, the discipline and the appreciation of a beautiful art as well as the life skill of a solid work ethic that continues with you in whatever you do after dance.
Q. What was your favourite piece to dance? Do you still dance privately, or train for fitness?
A. A variety, but of the classics it would be Romeo and Juliet or Manon. The dancing I do now is for fun. I find I always need to keep moving in order to remain healthy but it’s not ballet any more.
Q. Since you’ve retired from ballet, you’ve been working in varied fields. What’s your favourite part of your job now?
A. Documenting dance and occasionally coaching talent.
Q. Let’s chat about Strictly. You’ve now completed two seasons and will return for the next. What was the difference between your role as a judge in the first and second season, and do you see that evolving in the next?
A. I know where my niche is between the three guys I work with and I think we complement one another now. I hope to remain sympathetic and understanding to the celebrities.
Q. Who would you love to see compete in the new season?
A. I always enjoy the sports personalities because of their physicality and strength as well as their discipline and competitive spirit.