Michael Jackson to Fred Astaire: Darcey Bussell on the dancers who inspired her

Ahead of her Christmas Day tribute to the great musicals, the former Royal Ballet star names her dance icons


Fred Astaire


As a little girl, I didn’t dream of being a ballet dancer, I dreamt of being a movie star like Ginger Rogers and dancing with Fred Astaire. I used to watch the Sunday double-bills on TV and Iong to be part of what seemed a perfect Disneyland world. Astaire was a genius. 

Cheek to Cheek from Top Hat was his iconic dance with Ginger Rogers and it was such a joy re-creating it — although dancing in heels was very hard for me. He made everything look so easy, but trust me, it is not!

He had a unique style and identity on stage and brought his own personality to everything he did, which is an amazing quality that has inspired every dancer who followed him.

Audrey Hepburn

She always wanted to be a dancer, and in all her films, whenever there was an opportunity to dance, she would embrace it and you could see the joy in her eyes. She had the most amazing, iconic look and was always so perfect. She just couldn’t look bad and had such a grace about her. I always aspired to be like her in that way.

Michael Jackson

When I was a teenager, I used to watch the Making Michael Jackson’s Thriller video and try to follow the steps and do the Thriller moves in my bedroom. That was the most incredible dance sequence. And actually, you can see that Jackson was hugely inspired by Fred Astaire in the way he choreographed his music videos. He was hungry for inspiration and loved every dance and every song. He was born to be on the stage.

Svetlana Beriosova

My mother loved the ballet and Svetlana was her favourite ballerina. I was lucky enough to be coached by her one summer at the Royal Ballet School’s White Lodge in London. As soon as I got there I was awestruck. She was the perfect image of a ballerina and I wanted to be exactly like her.

Margot Fonteyn

I never saw her dance, but I was coached by her when I was 20, preparing for my first performance as the principal in Swan Lake, and I remember every single word she said to me. It was terrifying and she was very stern. But she had such a depth of knowledge, I tried to absorb every little bit of it.

Interview by Alexia Skinitis


Darcey Bussell Dances Hollywood is on Christmas Day at 6:30pm on BBC2