The Inventory: Darcey Bussell

‘Being a dancer, having kids and keeping the career going wasn’t the easiest,’ says the ballerina

© Joss McKinley

Darcey Bussell, 43, was principal dancer at the Royal Ballet until 2006 - and was appointed CBE in the same year. She retired from professional ballet in 2007.

What was your earliest ambition?

I did ballet from the age of five, but what I loved was my gymnastics. I kept the ballet going because of the gymnastics, then found I was going to be too tall.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

The Arts Educational Schools London, then The Royal Ballet School. Then I went straight into the company.

Who was your mentor?

Sir Kenneth MacMillan. He gave me all the opportunities I might not have had if he hadn’t been around.

How physically fit are you?

I’d never be able to keep up the standards I had when I was a dancer. I injured my knee last year, which made me very depressed. I do a Zumba class at least twice a week, which entertains me and keeps me fit, and I have two dogs that I walk regularly.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

For me it was probably stubbornness. If you have enough ambition, you can create talent! In the dance world it has to be in your genetic make-up – your body has to suit the training.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

I think I did when I was younger.

How politically committed are you?

I try to stay away from politics as the dance world is very small, everybody knows everybody, and I like to stay in the middle. I’ve learnt to be a very good listener. I only show my passion if I really believe in something.

Mentor: Sir Kenneth MacMillan

I think about it a lot. It’s very difficult for me, living in Australia and getting on flights, so I desperately want to grow a forest one day. We’re very conscious of waste; when you have kids you want to make them understand it’s not a throwaway society.

Do you have more than one home?

Yes, because London will always be my home, but we live in Sydney. I’m split between the two.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

I’d like it if I could be everywhere at once. When I’m touring, my time with my kids is very precious. And a field or a hill with a view.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Time for myself. I appreciate it more and more. Even an hour a day would be good. My biggest luxury is being able to pamper myself.

In what place are you happiest?

A Saturday evening watching a movie with my family.

What ambitions do you still have?

I don’t, really. I feel very, very content with what I’ve done.

What drives you on?

Being excited about life. I enjoy the adventure and the experiences.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

Having children. Being a dancer and having kids and keeping the career going wasn’t the easiest.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

I don’t have one.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?

I was made principal at 20. She would say: “You can take it a little bit easier.”

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

I’d enjoy myself just as much. I’d be very happy being a mum, living in a different country, learning a language.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

Difficult … If it’s regulated, yes, I probably do.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

I think there is something else; I don’t think it’s totally empty afterwards.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

10. My life is good, I have no complaints.

Darcey Bussell is the face of Sanctuary Spa’s new Active Reverse skincare range, available from Boots and

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