Darcey Bussell was born in London and trained at The Royal Ballet School. It was here that the late 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 Wells Royal Ballet after only one year. In 1989, on the opening night of the show, she was promoted to Principal, at the time the youngest ballerina to be given this honour. Darcey remained a Principal dancer with The Royal Ballet until her retirement in 2007.
Darcey 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 Two. She has been featured in television documentaries including the BBC’s Britain’s Ballerina (2005) and appeared in numerous televised ballet galas and TV programmes. In 1995 Darcey was awarded an OBE, a CBE in 2006, and a DBE in 2018.
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 in 2008, of which over 1 million copies have been sold. In 2012 Darcey came out of retirement to lead a troupe of 300 ballerinas in the closing ceremony of the London Olympic Games. Darcey is the Patron of the Sydney Dance Company and President of the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s fundraising appeal.
In 2012 she was appointed President of the Royal Academy of Dance.