Dame Darcey Bussell quit Strictly because bosses wanted to ignore ballet background

Craig Revel Horwood, (L-R) Darcey Bussell and Shirley Ballas at the launch of Strictly Come Dancing 2017 at Broadcasting House in London.
 at the launch of Strictly Come Dancing 2017 at Broadcasting House in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday August 28th, 2017
Dame Darcey Bussell felt Strictly bosses did not want her to refer to her ballet background. (PA)

Dame Darcey Bussell has said she quit Strictly Come Dancing because producers didn't want her to refer to her ballet background.

The retired ballerina was a judge on the BBC celebrity dance contest for seven series between 2012 and 2018 but said she felt pressured by bosses not to behave like a ballet dancer.

Bussell, 53, told the Royal Academy of Dance podcast: "It was really hard because the producers on the show didn’t want me to be the ballet dancer and I was like, 'Well, sadly I am, and I think you chose me because I am the ballet dancer.'

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Darcey Bussell performs a routine from Pas de Deux, during the Darcey Bussell evening at London's Hampton Court Palace Festival.   (Photo by Peter Jordan - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Darcey Bussell was a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet. (Getty Images)

"They were convinced that the public were going to take that on board. But the public did take it on board and [nevertheless] were happy to have me as a judge.

"I was always going to play myself, however much I was convinced that to look like and be like the ballet dancer wasn’t the right thing.

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"I was, like, 'Well, sorry, you’re taking me as it is. This is how I look and this is how I’ll act'."

Bussell - who has two daughters aged 21 and 18 with Australian businessman husband Angus Forbes - admitted being a judge on the show was not easy.

Bruno Tonioli, Shirley Ballas, Darcey Bussell and Craig Revel-Horwood arriving at the red carpet launch of Strictly Come Dancing 2018, BBC Broadcasting House, London. Photo credit should read: Doug Peters/EMPICS
Darcey Bussell was a judge for seven series with Bruno Tonioli, Shirley Ballas and Craig Revel-Horwood. (Getty Images)

She said: "It wasn’t the easiest thing for me, because I wanted to still be the dancer on that dancefloor.

"Being a judge full-time was hard, knowing that it’s live and having the ability to be quick and responsive, because I like to think and take my time."

Bussell became the principal dancer at the Royal Ballet in 1989 at the age of 20. She retired in 2007 and is considered one of the most famous British ballerinas of her time. She was made a Dame in 2018 for services to dance.

The ballerina replaced Alesha Dixon on the judging panel after she left to join rival show Britain's Got Talent.

Anton Du Beke made his debut as a fulltime 'Strictly' judge alongside Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Shirley Ballas. (BBC)
Motsi Mabuse replaced Bussell on the panel in 2019. (BBC)

She has now been replaced by Motsi Mabuse, who sits on the panel with Craig Revel Horwood and head judge Shirley Ballas.

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In 2021 they were joined by former Strictly professional Anton Du Beke, replacing Bruno Tonioli, who judges US version Dancing With The Stars.