osteoarthritis had eroded Podcasy’s hip so thoroughly that she could hardly walk, let alone dance. The pain in her joint was constant and sharp. Doctors had advised her to put off having her hip replaced. And she feared an artificial hip would end her career as a performer.
She was 45, well into her twilight by ballet standards, but determined to keep dancing. So she took the only leap she could still execute: a leap of faith.
Traipsing around Carolina Ballet’s North Raleigh rehearsal studios last year, Podcasy looked like any other dancer. Sporting a leotard, tights and toe shoes, her sinewy muscles popping out from her petite frame, she seemed as fit as the rest of the 32-member company, most of whom are less than half her age.
But while the young women around her wore glowing smiles, Podcasy often looked sullen. She seemed withdrawn and distant. The stellar career she’d worked for more than 30 years to build was crumbling at the mercy of one cranky joint. And she didn’t know what to do about it.
“For a dancer, that’s really traumatic,” she says. “Your whole lives, it’s like you told your body what to do. It’s like mind over matter. You’re in tune with every little muscle: ‘This does that. If I want to do this, what do I have to think about to get my body to do it?’ ” Now, she had lost that power.
“It was like I was stuck in a plaster cast,” she says. “I would think, ‘Do that,’ and nothing would happen.” Ballet dancers are accustomed to pain. The posture alone — with legs turned out at a 180-degree angle — wreaks havoc on the joints and spine. Add to that the wear and tear of constant jumps and pivots, and it’s a wonder they last as long as they do.
The most flexible ballerinas are at once blessed and cursed. The shape of their hip joints allows them a wider range of motion. But all that movement puts a greater strain on their cartilage, wearing it down sooner.
Darcey Bussell to star in London Olympics’ closing ceremony
Britain’s most famous ballerina, Darcey Bussell, is to return to the stage to bring the London Olympics to a close.
Bussell, 43, will dance at the end of the Olympics closing ceremony, with four male dancers, in a showcase choreographed for her by the Royal Ballet’s artistic associate, Christopher Wheeldon.
Last Friday, she flew from Sydney, her home for the last five years, to London, where she will prepare for her Olympics’ appearance, her first on pointe in five years, and become a judge for the BBC program, Strictly Come Dancing, for both this year’s season of the popular TV show and next year’s as well.
Travelling with her to London were her husband, funds manager, Angus Forbes, and their two young daughters.
The family will live in south west London for at least the next two years while Forbes establishes a new business, Commons Floor, described as “a project aiming to get the financial services industry involved in the protection of the ecological and societal commons, ie, a healthy planet and eradication of slums”.
In early 2009, in Sydney, he co-founded, with Marcus Burns, Natural Capital Funds Management. It managed an equities fund that is no longer active.
Bussell has resigned as a director of the Sydney Dance Company board but stepped into a new role as its patron.
When Bussell retired as prima ballerina of the Royal Ballet in 2007, she moved with her husband to Sydney, settling in Vaucluse where the couple had bought a property two years earlier.
In 2010 she told The Australian Financial Review: “I quite like the anonymity of Australia. I feel like I can find my own way rather than being watched, which I felt in London. I was feeling a lot of pressure, to be truthful”.
But once a dancer, always a dancer. In Sydney she continued to take classes in jazz and contemporary dance and then, after a major injury to her knee, and on the advice of a physiotherapist, returned to ballet classes at Sydney Dance Company and more recently, at a church hall in Sydney’s east, where the teacher is Jodi Rose, wife of the late Murray Rose.
There is more than the Olympics waiting for Bussell in London. She is to be the ‘face’ of a new cosmetics range by Sanctuary Spa, owned by the international company PZ Cussons and is the new president of the teaching organisation, the Royal Academy of Dance.