When did you start dancing?
At 5, in the Mercury Theatre behind where I lived in Notting Hill. Ballet Rambert used to use the studios as well.
Why did you start dancing?
I had knocked knees, so my mother sent me to ballet class every Saturday. She knew it would be good for straightening up my legs, improving my posture and burning a lot of energy. It did not come from me, at first, as I only really enjoyed my dancing then because my friends also went.
Which dancer inspired you most as a child?
Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse. I first fell in love with old 1940's dance films. I also had pictures of Natalia Makarova, not that I had ever seen her dance; I didn't see much ballet at all as a child. I just enjoyed imitating the dance I saw in films.
What's your favourite role?
Too many really to choose from but I always loved dancing in Romeo & Juliet and Manon.
What role have you never played but would like to?
I would have liked to have performed in Don Q. I rehearsed it, did the stage calls but got injured in the two times it came into the rep in my 20 years as Principal.
What's your favourite ballet to watch?
Abstract ballets. I like to see the naked technique. Agon, for example – I enjoy the play with music in a lot of the Balanchine ballets.
Who is your favourite choreographer?
Kenneth MacMillan, simply a genius.
Who is your favourite writer?
I don't have one – very difficult to choose.
Who is your favourite theatre or cinema director?
Michel Hazanavicius, Ron Howard.
Who is your favourite actor?
Clive Owen, Susan Sarandon.
Who is your favourite singer, musician?
Dinah Washington, Louis Armstrong, Sting and Prince… that dates me!
What is your favourite book?
Don't have one favourite, I just enjoy biographies mainly… Ava Gardner and Esther Williams come to mind.
What is your favourite film?
Chorus Line (1985, by Richard Attenborough) and The Artist (2011).
Which is your favourite city?
London, Sydney… difficult to choose.
What do you like most about yourself?
Like being tall, disciplined and my tenacity.
What do you dislike about yourself?
I worry too much and find it difficult to relax.
What was your proudest moment?
Having my two children.
When and where were you happiest?
I have been very fortunate, but I like to think we can find happiness in every week.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My family… my husband.
What is your greatest fear?
Death of a child.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My dyslexia, but it has also made me a stronger and resilient individual.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Very difficult to say: as a dancer, my dedication to my art and my enjoyment and fulfilment of my career; I'm still working hard on the next half of life.
What is your most treasured possession?
I try not to have them otherwise I would always worry. Most important gifts are health and enjoying experiences with friends & family.
What is your greatest extravagance?
My diamond earrings.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
On what occasion do you lie?
I really, really try not to lie, but we all say white lies occasionally, don't we?
If you hadn't been a dancer what would you have liked to be?
An artist, or an architect or a designer.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Stubbornness, or tenacity, but I smile a lot, and I smile in difficult situations.
What quality do you most value in a friend?
What quality do you most value in a colleague?
Consistency passion and hard worker… sorry not only one!
Which historical figure do you most admire?
Emelia Pankhurst and Nelson Mandela.
Which living person do you most admire?
Jane Fonda, but there are many more.
What do you most dislike?
Pollution, greed, selfishness, narcissism.
What talent would you most like to have?
What's your idea of perfect happiness?
The beach with beautiful calm sea, peace and simplicity.
How would you like to die?
Happy… like Thelma and Louise!
What is your motto?
Be fearless and work for hard, be yourself and be humble… but enjoy life as well, of course!
Many of the images for the article come from Darcey Bussell's book ‘Evolved', published by Hardie Grant Books (UK)
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.