Wayne Sleep was born in Plymouth and later moved to Co. Durham where at the age of twelve he won the Leverhulme Scholarship to the Royal Ballet School and joined the Royal Ballet in 1966.
In 1973 he became a Principal Dancer and appeared in over fifty major roles some created for him by Sir Frederick Ashton, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Dame Ninette de Valois, Rudolf Nureyev, Joe Layton and John Neumeier.
His own choreographic work includes David and Goliath for London Contemporary Dance and San Francisco Ballet; Savoy Suite for English National Ballet; Soldier's Tale and The Hot Shoe Show for BBC TV and stage; Wonderland (Scenes from Alice), Cinderella, Toad (Wind in the Willows) for the National Youth Ballet; The Wizard of Oz for the London Studio Centre; The Point; Salad Days; Roll Over Jehovah; Carousel; dance sequence for the film Death on the Nile; Aspects of Dance; Bits and Pieces; World of Classical Ballet; History of Dance; Hollywood and Broadway. He formed his own dance company DASH which, after many seasons in the West End, toured the world, concluding back in London at the Coliseum.
As an actor, Wayne has played Ariel in The Tempest; Truffaldino in The Servant of Two Masters; the title role in Pinocchio; Oblio in The Point, Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream with the Open Air Shakespeare Company and in Britten's opera at Covent Garden, the Soldier in Stravinsky's A Soldier's Tale, Tony Lumpkin in She Stoops to Conquer for BBC Radio, and appeared in the films The Virgin Soldiers, The First Great Train Robbery and The Tales of Beatrix Potter.
He starred in the original productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber's smash hits Cats and Song and Dance and played the Emcee in Gillian Lynne's production of Cabaret in the West End. He has topped the bill in 16 pantomimes, and devised and directed many productions and charity galas including Carnival of the Birds, Designed for Dance, 90 Years of Dance, Stars of the Night, Explosive Dance, 50 Winks at Wayne Sleep, Birthday Offering (for Princess Margaret), D.B.E. (for Dame Beryl Grey) and Stars for a Day.
Wayne has two entries in the Guinness Book of Records and was Show Business Personality of the Year in 1984. He has been the subject of This is Your Life and of Melvyn Bragg's South Bank Show, and has received honorary degrees from the Universities of Exeter and Teeside. He is a Patron of the South West Region of the Royal Academy of Dance, the British Ballet Organisation, the Dance Teachers' Benevolent Fund and other institutions. In 1998, he was appointed OBE. His publications include Variations on Wayne Sleep and his autobiography Precious Little Sleep. He has now set up a charity: The Wayne Sleep Dance Scholarship to help aspiring dancers with their tuition and he continues to pass on his knowledge at his dance workshops throughout the world.