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Saturday, July 17, 2010
Wayne Sleep OBE is a British dancer, director and choreographer. He was a Principal Dancer with the Royal Ballet and has appeared as a Guest Artist with several other ballet companies.
He moved with his family to Hartlepool ca. 1951 and spent ten years there. He was educated at Hyde Park Junior School, and began dancing lessons in Hartlepool in 1955 with Muriel Carr, before gaining a Leverhulme Scholarship to the Royal Ballet School in 1961 and joining the Royal Ballet in 1966.
At only 5'2", Sleep is famous for being the shortest male dancer ever admitted into the Royal Ballet School. Had he not left his audition for the school early and missed his final physical examination, he would not have gained a place. Because of his diminutive stature many directors were reluctant to cast him in traditional male lead roles. As a result many roles were created for him by noted choreographers including Ashton, MacMillan, de Valois, Layton, Nureyev, and Neumeier. Sleep is often chosen for character roles due to his unusual physique. In 1982, Andrew Lloyd Webber adapted his Variations album as the second half of stage show Song and Dance for Sleep. Sleep created the role of Mr. Mistoffelees in Lloyd Webber's musical Cats in London's West End, at the New London Theatre, on May 11, 1981.
In 1973, Sleep established a world record by doing an entrechat-douze - a jump with twelve beats of the feet. This record still stands to this day (2009).
As well as dancing, Sleep also acts and his credits include Tigger in Winnie the Pooh and Villiers in Soldiers. He also appeared, as himself, in The Goodies episode Football Crazy.
Sleep is remembered for dancing with Princess Diana at the annual Christmas party of the Friends of Covent Garden at the Royal Opera House in 1985.
In 2003, Wayne appeared in the reality TV series, I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!. In the 2005/06 pantomime season, Sleep appeared in Beauty and the Beast at the Theatre Royal, Windsor. Sleep recently completed a tour of Magic of the Musicals with Marti Webb and Robert Meadmore, as well as appearing as a judge on BBC One's Strictly Dance Fever.
Wayne Sleep has worked with the British Shakespeare Company on three successful occasions, playing Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream twice (most recently on a national tour in 2006), as well as Feste in Twelfth Night.
Sleep runs workshops all over the country that children of over the age of six can attend. He has recently appeared as Uncle Willy in a performance of High Society and appeared as Emcee in the UK touring production of Cabaret in 2008-9.
Sleep also appeared in the 2008 series of Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, as a team member in the feature Ant vs. Dec. On the first show Ant's team lost the challenge which meant Ant had to chose one of the team members to be eliminated and chose Wayne.
Wayne Sleep is mentioned numerous times in the film Billy Elliot, and also in the British stage musical version of this film. (On Broadway references to Sleep were changed to Rudolf Nureyev.)
Sleep is a recipient of the Carl Alan Award, an industry honour voted for by dance professionals in recognition of outstanding contributions to dance.