My Secret Life: Derek Deane, choreographer, 57


My parents were... very kind people. My father was in the RAF and my mother trained as a nurse. I had a very distant relationship with them, though, mostly because of their work commitments.

The household I grew up in... I grew up in lots of different households, because we moved round the earth all the way through my childhood. I went to 10 different schools.

When I was a child I wanted to... I always really wanted to be in the theatre, but as an actor. It changed to dance very late – I only started with dance when I was 16.

If I could change one thing about myself... It's not a very good answer, it's just related to dance – I'd change my ankles, knees and hips to new ones, after 30 years of dancing.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at... shearing sheep.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... catching sheep! To answer properly, I'm no good at being patient with people who don't work hard.

At night I dream of... mostly nightmares – a lot of anxiety dreams, and very little pleasure.

What I see when I look in the mirror... I see myself getting older.

I wish I'd never worn... my Shakespearean pants in a ballet by Kenneth MacMillan called Isadora. They were big and huge and uncomplimentary to the physique, and it was hard to dance in them.

My favourite item of clothing... Anything cashmere really.

I drive... a 4x4 Nissan Terrano, as I live on top of a mountain.

It's not fashionable but I like... to have foie gras with a cosmopolitan at half six in the evening.

My house is... I live on top of a mountain in a very big old farm house in the south of France. I live with 48 goats and 29 sheep.

My favourite work of art... Anything by Caravaggio.

My secret crush is... Oh my goodness. Who is my secret crush? Who's flavour of the month? Patrick Dempsey – that'll get people.

Movie heaven... is anything French – Jean de Florette, Manon des Sources. Because when I watch them I feel like I'm at home.

A book that changed me... The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by the Dalai Lama. It didn't make me happy but it helped me to accept unhappiness more.

My greatest regret... Depression.

My real-life villains... Politicians – can you trust them?

The last time I cried... This morning, when I thought about somebody very close to me who had just died.

My five-year plan... To be more creative, and to carry on working, but also to save plenty of time to enjoy living at home. I've only been living here for three years, but because I work all round the world, I'm always travelling. But it's so wonderful to be at home and watch the birds fly below the house.

What's the point? The point is to try to get to the end.

My life in six words... Complicated, fascinating, fun, desperate, invigorating and splendid.

A life in brief

Derek Deane was born in 1953. He trained at The Royal Ballet School and went on to become a principal dancer for The Royal Ballet. After retiring from the stage, he became artistic director of the English National Ballet in 1993, and in 2000 was awarded an OBE. Deane has also created work for The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Teatro alla Scala, Shanghai Ballet and many more. Earlier this year he appeared in a BBC4 documentary, Agony and Ectasy: A Year at the English National Ballet, and he is currently directing Strictly Gershwin, at the Royal Albert Hall in London, from 9-19 June

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