The last decade in ballet

TEN YEARS IN THE ARTS

Blow the dust off a Covent Garden schedule for 1986 and you will see no sign of Darcey Bussell or Sylvie Guillem. Young Miss Bussell (pictured, right, in La Ronde) was still at the Royal Ballet School, though soon to be plucked from obscurity by Sir Kenneth MacMillan. Meanwhile in Paris, Mlle Guillem was already firmly under the wing of Rudolf Nureyev who made her an etoile of the Paris Opera Ballet at the unusually young age of 19 in 1984.

Superficially, the dancers were rather alike. They were both unusually tall for ballerinas, both good technicians, both beautiful. But their different personalities and styles attracted different audiences. Bussell's English-rose looks and modest charm appealed to traditionalists and Anglophiles; Guillem's relentless chic and supercharged stage presence was a hit with the international crowd.

Guillem took charge of her own career from an early age. Nureyev's example had encouraged her to be demanding, even arrogant on occasion - traits that eventually led to her leaving Paris for London. The Royal Ballet knew solid-gold box-office when it saw it and offered the young starlet an attractive contract as principal guest artist. Guillem's flying visits to London were standing-room-only thanks to her flamboyant, gymnastic style, her fondness for super-high extensions and seemingly endless balances.

Darcey Bussell was in many ways a classic Royal Ballet School product. Disciplined, modest and immature, she seemed the polar opposite of Guillem: Guillem would insist that suitable partners be flown in at a moment's notice rather than dance with local talent; Bussell's partnerships were arranged by management. Various tall men were imported. At one point the Bolshoi heart-throb Irek Mukhamedov was tipped as a life partner but his medium height made many pas de deux impossible. This incompatibility led to the abrupt cancellation of Bussell's debut in Manon, a theatrical calamity that made front-page headlines in 1991.

Twelve months later Bussell finally debuted in Manon to ecstatic reviews - a triumph that revealed the steely single-mindedness behind the schoolgirl manner. Bussell's self-confidence has grown steadily over the past 10 years thanks to the huge success she has enjoyed abroad, on tour with the Royal Ballet and in guest appearances. She was awarded an OBE in 1995, America's People magazine voted her one of the world's 50 most beautiful people and, like Guillem, she's had her own South Bank Show.

Where will Darcey Bussell and Sylvie Guillem be in 10 years' time? Fitness (and upcoming talent) permitting, they could still be dancing leading roles at 37 and 41 - Fonteyn danced Swan Lake in her fifties but she also had the stimulus of new works being constantly created for her. With the current world shortage of great choreographers they may have to content themselves with Swan Queens and Giselles and Juliets. But with any luck it will be some time before either of them is playing Juliet's nurse.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

    £40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

    Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

    £26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

    £17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

    Day In a Page

    Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

    ‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

    Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
    Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

    Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

    But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
    Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

    Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

    Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

    ... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
    Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

    Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

    Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
    12 best olive oils

    Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

    Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
    Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

    Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

    There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)