Diverse Dance Mix by Darcey Bussell is all about making dancing fun and accessible. So, yes, you really can dance like Darcey. The Resident finds out more…
If somebody told you that you could replicate one of Darcey Bussell’s dances, you would probably not believe them. But this is exactly what Bussell is achieving with her company Diverse Dance Mix, a dance class programme that aims to get people moving without being intimidated by the word dance, or the technicality of the steps, and to give a full body workout that is such fun you don’t even notice that you are exercising.
It is all about making it accessible to all, and what better way to get fit than to learn dance from the master herself? She’s certainly not one to take it slowly in retirement that’s for sure, as Bussell has been busy as a judge on the ever-popular Strictly Come Dancing, keeps close ties with the Royal Ballet where she now coaches, does documentary work and is busy choreographing and running DDMIX.
‘DDMIX is always happening and we are doing a big push into schools at the moment,’ says the Londoner. ‘So I visit a lot of different schools, creating awareness and making sure that people realise that exercise can be fun and not just a chore.’
As the founder of the company, Bussell decided to start it due to wanting something fun and healthy to fill her time after retiring as a professional ballet dancer. ‘I wanted something that I could enjoy but not take too seriously. I found with most fitness options out there, you have to throw yourself into it fully to be able to see a benefit, so I wanted to create something entertaining that would keep people healthy, but put a smile on their face too,’ she says. ‘It’s important that it has variety; otherwise people like me get bored. Dance keeps your brain engaged and works your mind alongside exercise.’
It’s important that it has variety; otherwise people like me get bored. Dance keeps your brain engaged and works your mind alongside exercise
Group exercise is a brilliant way of forgetting you are exercising. For Bussell, this was something that was always part of her life because of dancing and constant classes. It is important for her to make dancing and exercise combined accessible.
‘I was really inspired by Zumba, and how it changed people’s idea of what fitness was,’ she says. ‘For me, retiring as a professional dancer and realising that I still needed to keep my body moving, Zumba was the perfect outlet except that it was very one dimensional, so I needed something that was going to continue to evolve and keep me motivated.
‘This is where I realised that something with different styles and genres would be brilliant as it would have something that would tick the box for everyone. As you get older, you seem to take life more seriously, so it’s important to have outlets where you let yourself get away from it all and have fun.’
Dance is so diverse and each genre of dancing brings different elements of strengthening, conditioning and fitness. ‘Even if you are only working your upper body in the dance, you’ll get out of breath,’ says Bussell. ‘Because dancing is continually stimulating nerves, you get a lot out of it physically as it subtly uses your whole body. Flamenco is an example of this.’
Strictly Come Dancing has hugely helped in the quest to make dance more accessible to the masses too. ‘I think a lot of people who wouldn’t have even bothered imagining that dance could be a part of their lives have turned around to a new way of thinking now,’ she says. ‘Strictly has changed people’s ideas of dance and has made it a social enjoyment. It has showed people that anyone can do it, no matter their body shape or inhibitions.’ Even Bussell finds different genres and styles other than ballet extremely challenging, so it goes to show that anyone really can do it.
At DDMIX, the steps are simple so that it is more like a fitness programme, but you do learn core dance skills too. It means that it is totally inclusive for any ability and age. ‘I’ve got two young teenagers so I looked at their activity for inspiration,’ she says. ‘It’s all manageable depending on how you change the intensity, speed and physicality. I choreograph everything with a friend and I get a little carried away, so I focus on simplifying it!’
Bussell believes strongly that the big cities across the country are working well to make dance appeal to the masses, and the diversity and immersion in a city like London inspires her everyday. ‘The diversity is so inspiring and what comes with all the different nationalities is the opportunity to experience so many different styles of dance,’ she says. ‘London is wonderful for that. Though we need to hang on to those church halls and studio spaces. I love that you can escape to a large park so easily here.’
So what has Bussell got up her sleeve for this year? ‘I’m excited to get started on my next dance documentary,’ she says. ‘Most of all, I can’t wait to push dance in education more this year.’
Find out more at diversedancemix.com