Dance: In step with Sleep

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Indy Lifestyle Online
There had been rumours that those lovely Hochhauser people were going to be bringing something extra special to the Coliseum this August. Something imported. Whatever it was, it fell through, but Wayne Sleep, OBE had a window in his schedule so he was booked instead.

Since leaving the Royal Ballet in 1983, Sleep (right) has worked incessantly with a variety of musicals and showbizzy, flashdancing hits. He has tried his hand at everything from tap to tango. This experience has made him adept at smart, audience-friendly programming and, at 50, he retains the useful remnants of a once extraordinary technique.

Sleep has recently returned to the conventional ballet stage in character roles. The latest triumph was a string of sell-out dates with Scottish Ballet, a company which has been in dire financial straits. The new show, Dash, is a mixed programme of dance performed by Sleep and "his company of dynamic dancers". Among them are the Estonian dream team of Thomas Edur and his wife Agnes Oaks, who will be lending a little classical body to the showbiz cocktail. Also in the line-up are two newer faces; Melissa Wishinski and Timothy Melady. Sixteen-year-old Wishinski is currently with the American Hartford Ballet, but will make her debut with the Royal Ballet this autumn when she joins the company.

Several of the works on display will be familiar to regular Sleep-watchers. He is reviving his Savoy Suite, a pirouette-fest created for English National Ballet in 1993 as a piece d'occasion for the gala reopening of the Savoy Theatre. It plays on the quarrelsome relationship between Gilbert and Sullivan, the duo most closely associated with the Savoy. The music is one of Carl Davis's salads of Sullivan's compositions: three little maids, gondoliers... you name it, he's got it.

The most talked-about element of the programme is Sleep's reworking of his infamous duet with the Princess of Wales, which he dances alone with photographs to Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl". He made this sad and sentimental piece for last winter's Royal Academy of Dancing gala, but it seems to have found his way into his permanent repertoire.

Sleep's wide theatrical experience has made him a dab hand at pacing the mood of an evening and he can always be relied on for variety and high gloss. It probably isn't Art, but a good time is usually had by all.

London Coliseum, St Martin's Lane, WC2 (0171-632 8300) today at 2.30pm & 7.30pm