On Monday 17 July 2023, the Royal Opera House will host an afternoon of entertainment to celebrate the 75th birthday of former Royal Ballet Principal dancer Wayne Sleep.
Distinctively “diminutive in stature and larger than life in personality” (157 cm – 5'2″), Sleep rose quickly through the ranks at The Royal Ballet, and over five decades brought dance to audiences around the world, showcasing his virtuoso skills as a performer, director, and choreographer.
The ROH celebration will include a performance by the ‘pocket Apollo' himself, with guests including Dame Felicity Lott.
Many roles were created for him at The Royal Ballet by choreographers Frederick Ashton, Kenneth MacMillan, Ninette de Valois, Rudolf Nureyev, Gillian Lynne, and John Neumeier. These included George Robertson Sinclair in Enigma Variations, Kolia in A Month in the Country, the leading revolutionary in Anastasia, the Beggar Chief in Manon, and a role in Elite Syncopations.
Outside the company, he created the role of Mister Mistoffelees in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Cats and Lloyd Webber adapted his Variations album as the second half of the stage show Song and Dance for Sleep. He also performed the Emcee in Gillian Lynne's West End production of Cabaret. His dance show Dash was the first to combine ballet, tap, jazz, and contemporary under the same roof in one performance. He's formed Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream for the British Shakespeare Company twice, and Feste in Twelfth Night.
Sleep is featured in a David Hockney painting George Lawson and Wayne Sleep (1972–75), which is exhibited at the Tate in London, he dances Squirrel Nutkin and Tom Thumb in the 1971 film, The Tales of Beatrix Potter, and is well-known in television with many dance appearances followed his participation in Celebrity Big Brother, Celebrity MasterChef, and I'm a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!
On television and through his Wayne Sleep Foundation, he has continuously championed dance for all.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.