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Darcey Bussell: ‘Girls are now finding it hard to keep up with the guys’ in classical ballet

Darcey Bussell speaking at the launch of ImagineNation in Westminster. Photo: Cultural Learning Alliance

Retired ballerina Darcey Bussell has said that women are now struggling to keep up with the technical and physical abilities of men in classical ballet.

The comments were made at the Oxford Literary Festival and reported in the Times [1], with Bussell arguing that ballet had “always been a woman’s art, they were the main muse … men were there just to be this extraordinary crutch”.

As reported in the Times, Bussell said classics such as Giselle, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake had strong, dominant roles for women, with the male roles there “to make the women look as good as they could”.

She argued that the creation of “amazing” ballets with more equally weighted roles, such as Manon and Mayerling, had helped lead to a “transformation”, but that it had sometimes been at a cost for women dancers.

She added: “I knew how tough it was for men I danced with, but then I have seen this transformation where works have been created just for men.

“I see incredible talent with the men nowadays and, actually, the girls coming through are finding it hard to keep up with the guys.”

Darcey Bussell and Fiona Shaw back ‘call to arms’ for arts education [2]