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Wayne Philip Colin Sleep
17 July 1948 (age 70)
Plymouth, Devon, England
|Occupation||Dancer, director, choreographer|
|Spouse(s)||José Bergera (m. 2009)|
Sleep was born in Plymouth, Devon. His mother enrolled him at an early age with Geraldine Lamb Dance School, where he studied tap and jazz, wanting to be the next Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire rather than a ballet dancer. He and his family moved to Hartlepool ca. 1951 and spent 10 years there. He lived at Friar Terrace on the Headland and Sleep attended Baltic Street Junior School. Sleep began ballet 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 and becoming a senior principal dancer performing globally.
At only 5' 2", Sleep is the shortest male dancer 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, Gillian Lynne 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 12 beats of the feet, on the British television programme Record Breakers. This record still stands. Sleep later jumped from an aircraft for charity, after being challenged by presenter Roy Castle who said: "I’m going to beat your record and you've got to beat mine for tap dancing (the most taps in one minute) – but on my terms".
As well as dancing, Sleep also acts. His credits include Tigger in Winnie the Pooh[clarification needed] and Villiers in The Virgin Soldiers. He also appeared as himself in The Goodies episode "Football Crazy". Sleep's choreography credits include David and Goliath.[clarification needed]
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[when?] 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.
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 Sleep.
In 2015, he appeared in a celebrity edition of The Chase, a game show where he was winning money for charity.
Sleep also appeared in the BBC mini-series which followed a group of celebrity pensioners on a journey to India. The Real Marigold Hotel was broadcast from January to February in 2016. He appeared in subsequent episodes travelling to Florida and Japan in December 2016 and then China and Cuba in December 2017.
In 2017 he also appeared in The Real Full Monty, celebrating the original movies 20th anniversary and raising awareness for prostate and testicular cancer. In addition, he also appeared in BBC Queer As Art documentary celebrating the LGBTQ contribution to British arts in the 50 years since decriminalisation.
In January 2018 Wayne Sleep entered the British version of Celebrity Big Brother, making the final and finishing in 5th place.
Sleep performed as an actor in The Virgin Soldiers (1969), The First Great Train Robbery (1979) and Elizabeth (1998). He directed the choreography of the tango scene in the 1978 film Death on the Nile.
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 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 to whom Tex is referring.
In Sean Lock's 15 Storeys High, Sleep is one of several people to whom Vince addresses a letter.
In 2017, Sleep performed at Dame Vera Lynn's 100th birthday celebrations at the London Palladium.
In 2016, Sleep was the first artist to appear on BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night Is Music Night, recorded live at the Watford Colosseum on Monday 10th October with BBC Concert Orchestra.
In 2017, he appeared on Clare Teal’s BBC Radio 2 show.
He published Variations on Wayne Sleep and his autobiography Precious Little Sleep.
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Sleep lives with his husband José Bergera in West London.
Sleep received honorary degrees from the Universities of Exeter, Teesside and Plymouth and 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 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 theatre goers.
His charity, the Wayne Sleep Foundation, helps students who have successfully gained a place at a performing arts vocational college. He continues to pass his knowledge through private tuition and workshops for all ages.
- "People". The Stage. 12 July 1979. p. 17. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
- "Article in Devon Life". Devon Life. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
- "London Life". The Tatler. 9 July 1966. p. 3. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
- "BBC - Programmes categorised as Entertainment". BBC. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
- "The London Magazine". www.thelondonmagazine.co.uk. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
- "Wayne Sleep". Bigredbook.info. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
- "see obituary of founder of Friends of Covent Garden". The Times. London. 21 April 2006.
- "ITV Stepping Out TV show". ITV.com. London. 31 August 2013.
- "Rare Day announces Big Ballet TV show". Rare Day. London. 11 June 2013.