Strictly Come Dancing crowned a career of firsts for Dame Darcey Bussell

Dame Darcey Bussell’s turn as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing bookended a career which began with her selection, aged only 20, as the Royal Ballet’s then-youngest ever principal.

The former ballerina, 49, spent seven series handing out sharp but shrewd advice to celebrity contestants but stepped down on Wednesday to pursue other dance commitments.

Dame Darcey studied at The Royal Ballet School from the age of 13 before being chosen as principal of the Royal Ballet in 1989.

Dame Darcey Bussell leaves Strictly Come Dancing
Dame Darcey Bussell leaves Strictly Come Dancing

She danced on stages across the world and appeared in roles including The Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Giselle in Giselle and Swan Lake’s Odette.

In 2006 she announced she was retiring as the company principal from The Royal Ballet and in June 2007 she performed her last dance.

A few months later she was invited on to BBC radio’s Desert Island Discs where she told the show’s former host, Sue Lawley, that she knew it had been the “right decision”.

She explained age had been a consideration, and that her body “just doesn’t recover as quickly as it used to”.

Strictly Come Dancing Launch 2016 – Hertfordshire
Strictly Come Dancing Launch 2016 – Hertfordshire

Dame Darcey also danced for the Queen Mother at her 90th birthday tribute in 1990.

In 2012 she led a large group of ballet dancers during the Olympic closing ceremony.

She joined the Strictly panel permanently in 2012, after having made several guest appearances on the show prior to that.

Replacing Alesha Dixon, who left after three years to join the Britain’s Got Talent judging panel, Dame Darcey marked the occasion by dancing the American Smooth with former professional partner Ian Waite.

2018 saw her made a Dame in the Queen’s New Year Honours list, honoured for her services to dance.

Wimbledon 2017 – Day Eight – The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
Wimbledon 2017 – Day Eight – The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club

She said she was “truly humbled” to accept the honour “on behalf of all the dance organisations that I am so fortunate to be part of”.

It came 11 years after she was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours and 22 years after she received her first accolade of an OBE in the 1995 New Year Honours.

Dame Darcey married Australian businessman Angus Forbes in 1997 and the pair have two children who they have raised between London and Australia.