Do dancers ‘need' to dance? Well, most of them do, yes. It was needing to dance as a child that made them into a professional dancer, and the term can come to define who you are. If you no longer dance, then what are you?
Most will agree that Darcey Bussell stopped dancing too early, at the age of 38. She had been having physical problems, true, and she had a young family, but on stage she was in top form. Margot Fonteyn – with whom, as an English ballerina, she's often compared – didn't dance Nikiya in La Bayadère until she was 44. A year after her retirement, and living in Australia, she told The Daily Mail‘s Jane Gordon,
I am learning so many new things – how to cook, how to work on a computer. For now, this is all I want. But I am not somebody who can stay still for very long, so ask me again in a year. By then the novelty of all this may have worn off.
And wear off it did.
I missed dancing big time. I thought I could live one of those normal lives. There were lots of reasons for stopping: I had two kids and the discipline of working six days a week was hard to fit with being a mother. It took me a good year to realise that I needed dance,
Bussell admitted to Sarah Rainey in The Telegraph.
Although she doesn't dance professionally any more, she is fully immersed in the dance world, which is obviously where she belongs, and is a place which makes her happy. As she told Debra Craine in yesterday's Times:
What I really miss is the people and I miss the amount of perfecting and detail and all the stuff that would go on in the studio working with the other artists. It was such an indulgence to have the time to perfect something like that. You forget how wonderful that felt, no matter how painful and strenuous, no matter the aches and pains. It was a luxury to perfect the art.
I won't go back but I would love to be part of the process. I would like to get more seriously into coaching dancers. I'm not a teacher, because that's an art in itself, but I would love to teach them about stagecraft and what they can achieve for themselves.
So apart from television appearances, and benefiting from her experience of being a Mum, she's trying to get everyone to dance, and she'd like to see it promoted in the schools:
I have in the past year developed a dance fitness programme and my ambition is to get it into schools. We have 20 genres of dance in the syllabus, from Africa to Bollywood and line dancing. It's such fun. You can have such a wonderful time that you don't even appreciate that you are exercising and you don't need any dance experience.
Every child in the state school system should have access to dance. It doesn't have to be classical ballet at all. Call it a movement class if that makes you happier. And dance is a great motivator. They now know that kids who do exercise before they go into a classroom take in much more from their lessons.
And its not just about fitness:
Dance will tell you things about yourself. It helps you to know what your abilities are and what makes you feel good. It has the power to motivate you and it gives you confidence.
So her quest is to get everybody up and moving and away from their electronic screens:
You are never too old to dance and you can do it to any ability and still get as much good out of it. You don't need your leg around your ears; you don't need to bounce like a ball.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.