Darcey Bussell: how the ballet star became a Strictly favourite

From the Vicar of Dibley to clumsiness, here are six things you might not have known about Strictly judge Darcey Bussell.

Acclaimed ballerina Darcey Bussell joined the Strictly judging panel in 2012. Since then she’s been known for her constructive criticism of celebs and dancers alike.

As a ballerina, Darcey soon set the ballet world alight. Since her retirement in 2007, she has worked on numerous TV shows both in the UK and abroad, danced at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony, and taken on many patronages in the world of dance.

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Here are six things you might not know about Darcey Bussell:

1. Darcey’s not her actual first name

Darcey is actually one of her middle names – not her first name. Darcey was born Marnie Mercedes Darcey Pemberton Crittle in London. Her mother was an English model and her father, John Crittle, was an Australian known for his fashion boutique in the Swinging London of the 1960s, who made clothes for Jimi Hendrix among others.

Darcey’s parents divorced and her mother remarried, with her new husband Philip Bussell adopting Darcey. Darcey and her birth father remained estranged until his death.

2. She’s written books for children

Darcey is the author of a series of books for young children – the Magic Ballerina collection. There are four series of books, each one starring a different main character (Delphie, Rosa, Holly and Jade) and set in the world of Enchantia.

The collection encompasses 20 books in total – and is described as “a captivating journey to a faraway land of ballet and magic”.

6 things you didn't know about Darcey Bussell

3. She was the youngest principal dancer ever at the Royal Ballet

Darcey started dance lessons at the age of five, but she joined a specialist ballet school comparably late at the age of 13.

Nonetheless, she has the distinction of being the Royal Ballet ’s youngest-ever principal dancer at the age of 20.  

During her time at the Royal Ballet she danced in many productions both there and around the world, including: Giselle, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.

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4. She started ballet to combat clumsiness

Darcey may be one of Britain’s most famous ballerinas, but she came to the discipline almost by chance.

Darcey’s mother sent her to ballet lessons because she was such a clumsy child.

“I was a clumsy child, energetic and knocking into things. I'd spill things and get food down me, so Mum never wanted me in there,” Darcey told the Guardian.

“If I said I'd help, she'd draw breath. It was a reason she sent me to ballet classes – to control my clumsiness. And to sort out my bendy legs.”

Not only did ballet combat Darcey’s clumsiness, it proved to be her metier.

5. She appeared on the Vicar of Dibley

Among many other TV appearances, Darcey made a cameo appearance in hit BBC comedy The Vicar of Dibley.

The 1998 episode, entitled Celebrity Vicar, saw titular vicar Geraldine meet Darcey by chance and enlist her to help with a fundraising gala for the Dibley nursery school.

Darcey and Geraldine dance together in a ballet during the episode – which also sees Geraldine’s new-found celebrity go to her head.

6. She’s had her hip resurfaced

A 20-year-plus career as a ballet dancer has caused Darcey various injuries and physical weaknesses. Dancing at the highest level for so long can put the body under huge strain.

In 2015, Darcey underwent an operation to have her hips resurfaced – a less invasive option than hip replacement surgery.

“I had the resurfacing because I was too young to have a replacement,” Darcey explained to The Telegraph.

“A lot of retired ballerinas have [hip replacements] but they usually wait until they are in their 60s, not 40s. I just think, look, how lucky are we that we can have titanium put in our bodies and it does wonders.”

She’s not the only Strictly judge to have a hip replacement. Craig Revel Horwood has had both his hips replaced.  

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