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Wayne Sleep

Wayne Sleep
Born Wayne Philip Colin Sleep
17 July 1948 (1948-07-17) (age 67)
Plymouth, Devon, England
Occupation Dancer, director, choreographer
Years active 1966–present
Website Official website

Wayne Philip Colin Sleep OBE (born 17 July 1948) is a British dancer, director, choreographer, actor and panellist. He was a Principal Dancer with the Royal Ballet and has appeared as a Guest Artist with several other ballet companies. He was a judge on the ITV entertainment series Stepping Out.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Television 2.1
    • Film 2.2
    • Popular culture 2.3
  • Personal life 3
  • Notes 4
  • External links 5

Early life

Sleep was born in Plymouth, Devon. He and his family moved to Hartlepool ca. 1951 and spent ten years there. He lived at Friar Terrace on the Headland and Wayne attended Baltic Street Junior School. Although musical as a child – he was also a choirboy at St Hilda's Church – he was happiest when dancing, 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 because of 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 11 May 1981.

In 1973, Sleep established a world record by doing an entrechat-douze – a jump with twelve beats of the feet.[1] This record still stands to this day.


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's choreography credits include David and Goliath.

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.[2]

In 2003, Sleep appeared in the reality TV series, I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!. In the 2005/06 pantomime season, he 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 is currently appearing as Emcee in 'Cabaret' which is touring around England.

Sleep also appeared in the 2008 series of Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, as a team member in the feature Ant v. Dec. On the first show Ant's team lost the challenge which meant Ant had to choose one of the team members to be eliminated and chose Wayne.

In January 2011, Sleep featured on British reality cooking show Come Dine With Me, alongside presenter Terry Christian, Labour MP Diane Abbott and glamour model Danielle Lloyd. Sleep prepared a menu including mushrooms on toast, paella and pavlova, albeit with a lot of help from his partner.

In August 2013, Sleep joined ITV's dance show, Stepping Out, as a judge alongside Melanie Brown and Jason Gardiner. The show aired for one series and has not returned since.[3]

On 5 January 2014, Sleep and his family went on the game show All Star Family Fortunes, playing against Girls Aloud member Kimberley Walsh.

In February 2014, Wayne appeared in the Channel 4 show Big Ballet, about overweight ballet dancers.[4]

He finished 4th in the 2014 series of the BBC One cookery contest Celebrity MasterChef.

In 2015, he appeared in a celebrity edition of The Chase, a game show where he was winning money for charity.


Sleep showed great acrobatic and physical dexterity in the cameo role of a roof- and wall-climbing prisoner, known as 'Clean Willy' in the 1979 Michael Crichton film The First Great Train Robbery, alongside Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland. In it, he climbs a sheer granite prison wall and along a railway station's roof as part of a storyline about stealing a key from a guarded office. He also has a featured role and speaking part in Leslie Thomas' The Virgin Soldiers (1969).

Popular culture

Sleep is mentioned in "Never Say Alan Again", an episode from the second series of I'm Alan Partridge. When Michael's Americanophile friend Tex mentions that "[my idol] has gotta be Wayne", Alan mistakenly concludes he means Wayne Sleep. Tex tries to correct this misconception by drawling "Get on yer horse and drink yer milk" in an approximation of John Wayne's voice, but Alan is merely further confirmed in his belief that Sleep is the man Tex is referring to.

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.)

The diminutive and frizz-haired Green Wing character Martin Dear (played by Karl Theobald) refers to Wayne Sleep as the celebrity to whom he was most flattered to have his appearance compared.

In Sean Lock's 15 Storeys High, Wayne Sleep is one of several people to whom Vince addresses a letter.

Personal life

As well as being out as gay, Sleep has stated he is also attracted to women but has not been intimate with any for many years.,[5] He lives with his Spanish partner 'Jose' in West London.

Sleep is a recipient of the Carl Alan Award, an industry honour voted for by dance professionals in recognition of outstanding contributions to dance.

Sleep was friendly with theatre critic Jack Tinker; the two men were often mistaken for each other. At the premiere of a production of The Comedy of Errors, a play which depends on sets of identical twins being confused for one another, Tinker brought along an identically dressed Sleep as his companion. At Tinker's memorial celebration, a pastiche of Stephen Sondheim's musical Sweeney Todd was staged entitled "Tinker Jack, the Demon Critic of Fleet Street" in which Sleep played Tinker, serially executing several major West End producers (who played themselves) for inflicting particular dramatic atrocities upon the city's theatregoers.

Sleep is a patron of the Urdang Academy.


  1. ^ BBC's Strictly Dance Fever - About the show - the judges : Wayne Sleep [1] (March 2006)
  2. ^ "see obituary of founder of Friends of Covent Garden". The Times (London). 21 April 2006. 
  3. ^ "ITV Stepping Out TV show". (London). 31 August 2013. 
  4. ^ "Rare Day announces Big Ballet TV show". Rare Day (London). 11 June 2013. 
  5. ^ "Article on Daily Mirror website". 

External links

  • Wayne Sleep's Official Website
  • TV show clip on YouTube
  • Wayne Sleep at the Internet Movie Database
  • [2] Wayne Sleep Filmography
  • [3] Wayne Sleep at Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group
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