The 20 years of Bussell's career have seen radical changes for dance in Britain, including an increase in audience, in performances and in people taking part in dance. Strictly Come Dancing, with a regular television audience of 10 million, has encouraged many to take up dancing. About five million people attend dance classes, quite apart from Saturday night clubbing. Dance audiences have grown by almost 15 per cent in the past six years; from 1995 to 2000, the audience for contemporary dance grew by almost 30 per cent. Britain now has more companies, more performances, more dancing.
I would question what those figures have to do with classical ballet and why it's necessary to mention Strictly Come Dancing, a programme about ballroom dancing in the same sentence as Darcey Bussell's name. No one would deny the explosion in popularity of contemporary dance, but I don’t see the art of ballet in a very healthy state either in the UK or internationally.
BBC's coverage of Bussell's farewell performance struck me as more show biz than balletic with the political editor of Newsnight, Martha Kearney, interviewing such noted ballet commentators as Jasper Conran and Ainsley Harriott, though I enjoyed Jonathan Cope's contributions.
So far all the ballet goers I've spoken to have been a little cynical about the hype surrounding Bussell's retirement as the consensus seems to be that she was insufficiently distinguished to have deserved the astonishing media coverage she has received over the last couple of weeks.