Darcey Bussell has sashayed into our hearts as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing, reinventing herself from prima ballerina to graceful national treasure, with her endless legs, effortless glamour and expert knowledge of dance.
But achieving her flawless look still requires work, and Darcey hasn’t stopped moving since retiring from ballet a decade ago. She’s devised her own dance fitness DVD that’s encouraging us to turn over a new leaf in 2018 and work off all those mince pies through exercise.
Darcey reveals that even she put on weight over Christmas – which she spent in Australia with her husband, Angus Forbes, and their daughters Phoebe, 16, and Zoe, 13 – but you’d struggle to pinch an inch anywhere on her lithe frame.
Today, Woman has joined Darcey in a London dance studio for a workout session to tracks from her DVD, Diversity Dance Mix, or DDMIX for short. Slim but toned in black Lycra, Darcey, 48, leads
a group of us in fun moves that draw on dance styles from Charleston and disco to Madonna’s Vogue, but that are easy to master. Darcey shows us the movements and encourages those of us with two left feet.
Afterwards, red-faced and panting, Woman sits down with Darcey – who barely broke a sweat! – for a chat about health, Strictly and how her daughters’ dance teachers go white when she turns up at their classes…
Darcey, how did you come up with the idea for DDMIX?
After I retired, I knew I had to keep moving to keep my body supple and strong, but I didn’t want to go to any extremes. So I kept going to different styles of dance classes. I’d just hang about in the background, trying to be inconspicuous. That’s when I realised I wanted a bit of everything, because doing the same dance style all the time is boring. I was also thinking about my daughters – they get bored very quickly because they’re so stimulated with social media, so if I wanted kids to like it, too, I knew I had to choose something that’s constantly changing. So I made up my own exercise plan from various dance styles.
How do people react when they spot you in an exercise class?!
They’re so focused on trying to get their own steps right, so fortunately I don’t get noticed until the end of class. The teacher will always notice me and I’m like, ‘I’m just here to have a go.’ It’s more my kids’ teachers who get intimidated when I go into their classes.
Do you still do ballet?
I don’t do any ballet dancing. I coach principal ballet dancers every day, but fortunately I don’t have to get out of my seat! They’re so talented, they don’t need me to demonstrate anything.
Your fitness DVD is out now, have you ever struggled with your weight?
When I first stopped dancing, I put on weight. I suppose you naturally put on weight when you go on holiday, too, but then I start exercising and feel great again. If I haven’t exercised for a week, I’ll think, ‘What’s wrong?’ and realise, ‘Ah, I haven’t done a DDMIX class.’ It’s my fun, feelgood thing.
What do your daughters think of your post-ballet career?
Fortunately, they’re very supportive, which I was quite surprised about. I say, ‘Do you not want me doing this?’ and they say, ‘No, you should do it. It makes a lot of people happy, Mum.’ So they appreciate that I’m a bit mad!
Your husband must have been pleased when you retired from ballet dancing – he gets to see more of you.
Yes, I’m not performing every night, only once a week on Strictly, so it’s great. My kids are busier than I am, though. Obviously, as a dancer it was a very intense career and you don’t stop. But now I have far too much energy. If I didn’t work, I’d absolutely drive everyone bonkers.
Any New Year’s resolutions?
I don’t ever really set anything, probably because I don’t stick to them. At the moment, my aim is to get the DDMIX programme into schools and get kids feeling good about being physical and active.
Strictly has ended for another year, but do you stay in touch with the other judges?
Not really: they have very busy lives. Bruno goes straight back to America, although occasionally we go to the theatre – he loves the ballet, so I get him in to see shows. I see Craig occasionally, because he works with a lot of my friends as a choreographer. Shirley, I don’t know her well but she lives in America too.
Strictly has done loads to get the nation into dance, don’t you think?
It’s been massive! When people see a cricketer, a newsreader, a sports presenter doing Strictly, it’s amazing how it changes perceptions about dance. It’s one of the best shows out there to encourage every member of the family to participate.
Darcey Bussell – Diverse Dance Mix is out now on DVD and EST, £19.99. www.diversedancemix.com