In December 1985, Princess Diana surprised the audience with a surprise performance at London’s Royal Opera House, which went down in history and was recently reimagined in The Crown.
Photographs and not film were used to capture that exact moment. Friends of Covent Garden, the annual show, usually includes a special appearance by a celebrity guest. It was Diana in this case, unbeknownst to Prince Charles.
When she walked across the stage with renowned British dancer Wayne Sleep, who previously performed with the Royal Ballet, the room fell silent.
After she contacted him to coach her for the surprise performance, Diana and the ballet star got to know each other. They bonded over a shared sense of humour and a love of dance, which he claims will continue to be a part of her life.
Wayne tells HELLO! exclusively, “Oh yes, definitely.” “She’d most likely be teaching me how to keep my shoulders down and checking Google to see what I was up to and if I was up to anything naughty.”
Diana persuaded the dancer and choreographer, who is also an expert in jazz, tap, and contemporary dance, to teach her after she persuaded him to give her secret lessons so she could surprise her husband, the Prince of Wales, on stage during a Royal Ballet gala event.
“I walked in and saw this towering sort of goddess above me and thought to myself, ‘This isn’t going to work; it’ll be hysterically funny,'” Wayne, who was nine inches shorter than the royal, said.
“‘You know, I was up very late last night,’ I explained. ‘Do you mind if I take a seat?’ ‘No, not at all, you naughty boy,’ she replied. We began giggling and laughing at that point.”
He continued, “We had the same schoolboy humour.” “In some ways, I was her jester, but we got along swimmingly. We had something in common. She had a natural sense of style. She could do a high kick, a pirouette, and she had beautiful swinging hips.
“She possessed a quality known as charisma. She had a magnetic personality, and even when she spoke in hushed tones, it drew you in and made you want to embrace her all the time.”
Nobody was allowed into the studio for the pair’s top-secret rehearsals, so the audience was stunned when Diana slipped out of the royal box to join Wayne on stage for their performance to Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl, which was Diana’s choice of music.
“They gasped; they were paralysed,” Wayne explained. “It took them a long time to believe it was really her.”
When asked how they kept their rehearsals a secret, Wayne explained: “She’d meet me somewhere and then we’d disappear into a different part of the house. We’d rehearse at my studio, then I’d rehearse in the studio down here in Chiswick. We’d sometimes rehearse where she was to make sure no one knew.
“However, keep in mind that a lot of it was done over the phone. I was on tour with my own band, performing eight shows a week, and she’d be in Australia, with no idea where she was going. We had to do a lot of it over the phone because she had a job to do.”
Wayne, 72, who danced with the Royal Ballet Company and has appeared in West End productions such as Cats as well as TV shows such as I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, Strictly Dancer Fever, and Channel 4’s Big Ballet, is still teaching dance via Goldster more than 30 years later.
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“I’d gained some weight, so Goldster is my way of getting back into shape while also teaching other people,” he explained. “I said to myself, ‘Let’s do it together.'”
The star went on to say: “If Princess Diana were still alive, she’d be on Goldster with me. When she decided to pick up dancing again, she asked me to teach her.”