The Duchess of Cornwall (DoC): When I came to the Royal Academy of Dance for the first time, somebody said to me you’re going to see a Silver Swans class, and I thought, ‘Oh dear, what on earth is this going to be’. I thought there would be a lot of very ancient people like me wobbling about on one leg. And you were there! I couldn’t believe how good everybody was. They were so impressive!
DoC: Good morning everybody!
Dame Darcey Bussell (DB): Hello!
Angela Rippon (AR): Good morning Ma’am!
AR: How are you actually coping, during this lockdown, to fill your days?
DoC: Well it’s very peculiar. Suddenly you look at the diary and everything is scratched out! My husband is a workaholic so he will work wherever he is, so he’s sitting at his desk now working away. We try to do something for all our charities most days to try and give them a bit of encouragement and just try to lend them a bit of our support.
AR: Yes, and how about you Darcey?
DB: Being President of the Royal Academy of Dance, we’ve just got to try and keep enforcing that we don’t lose that industry at this time.
AR: Your life has been devoted to dance and that means that keeping fit has been something you’ve had to do every day of your working life.
DB: It’s wonderful because the RAD, obviously we know, are doing online classes. They have 9000 teachers across the world and most of them are delivering online classes.
DoC: I think we’ve all got to keep active. If we don’t we’ll just seize up and we won’t be able to get out of bed in the morning. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 10 minutes or 20 minutes, it just starts off the day. I do a combination of a bit of Silver Swans and a bit of pilates and a lot of walking, which I love. Being President of the Royal Osteoporosis Society, it’s what we try and tell people to do to keep their bones strong.
AR: Of course, and that’s really is what Silver Swans is aimed at. For those who aren’t aware, we should explain that it’s a programme of dance which is really based on, if you like, as I suppose Darcey would call them, the building blocks for ballet dancers. It’s the work they do at the barre, which gives them strength, which gives them core strength, which gives them balance and flexibility and all of those things. It’s basically for people over 55 but actually for anybody and for men as well, which is important I think!
DB: Yes, it’s built perfectly to give you that confidence and that strength to feel that you can move forward. It’s a brilliant tool to have a discipline like that that you can then use in every part of your life.
DoC: Sarah, the wonderful teacher, said to me, ‘Would you ever consider having a lesson?’, so I got a group of ancient friends together and the four of us sort of clatter around, and when we’re in London, we do it once a week and it makes all the difference.
DB: I mean the posture and everything for your stability, your centre, your core, understanding that - classical ballet is the perfect tool for that.
DoC: I’ve always loved dancing but I’d never, never done ballet.
AR: What were the things you found difficult about the classes and what were the things you found most enjoyable about them?
DoC: I think it was the sort of feeling that we were all in it together. We thought at first, I thought it was going to be very funny and I was going to laugh at everybody toppling over next door to me, but I think we concentrate so hard we don’t even know what our friend next door is doing. When I stand there I think to myself, ‘drop your shoulders, breathe deeply, don’t hunch’. It’s those sort of things which you have ingrained in your memory.
AR: It’s something you can do in your own space, you don’t need a lot of room to do it. I know you don’t have a ballet barre, do you? So what, you use the back of a chair or something?
DoC: No, no. She threw us in at the deep end. We weren’t even allowed a chair!
AR: Oh my gosh!
DB: It’s got nothing to do with image, the Silver Swans. It’s all just about how you feel when you dance.
AR: And you don’t even have to have the special ballet shoes. You can do this in bare feet, can’t you?
DB: Yes, exactly.
DoC: I’ve certainly never done any ballet before, and it doesn’t matter whether you’ve done ballet or not. It’s something that will make you feel better. It gives you a certain amount of confidence in yourself. It’s just a bit of discipline there, which I think we all need in our lives. You might groan a bit afterwards, and huff and grunt and everything else, but you do feel so much better.
AR: And it is fun, isn’t it?
DoC: It’s fun! It’s really good fun.
DB: We are utterly delighted that The Duchess is going to be Vice Patron of the Royal Academy of Dance.
DoC: Well it’s no hardship for me because I love dance. I love dance in any form, so it’s a real honour for me to be asked. My visit there was so memorable, first of all because of the Silver Swans, but actually meeting everybody. It had a wonderful feeling of comradeship and also such a happy place! I think dancing makes you happy.
AR: It does.
DoC: I’m very, very much a beginner and probably will always remain a beginner, but I do feel after a year, or 18 months, of doing it that maybe I've improved a tiny bit… but I’m certainly not going to be taking to the stage. I shall keep it in my own home very privately!
DoC: Keep safe and hope we will see you again in better times.
DB: ...doing Silver Swans!
DoC: Doing Silver Swans, exactly!