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The True Story Behind Princess Diana's Surprise Dance Performance at the Royal Opera House

Town and Country logo Town and Country 11/14/2020 Chloe Foussianes
Diana, Princess of Wales et al. posing for the camera: "Don’t drop the future Queen of England." That's all dancer Wayne Sleep could think about during his surreal duet with Princess Diana at the Royal Opera House. And after Kate Middleton's visit to the costume department at the same theater this morning, we're dwelling on it too. © Tim Graham - Getty Images "Don’t drop the future Queen of England." That's all dancer Wayne Sleep could think about during his surreal duet with Princess Diana at the Royal Opera House. And after Kate Middleton's visit to the costume department at the same theater this morning, we're dwelling on it too.

"Don’t drop the future Queen of England"—that's all dancer Wayne Sleep could think about during his surreal duet with Princess Diana at the Royal Opera House.

According to Sleep, who told his side of the story to The Guardian in 2017, the dance was all Diana's idea. The Princess of Wales reached out to him in 1985, asking if he might help her surprise supporters of the Royal Ballet—particularly her husband, Prince Charles—by taking to the stage herself.

"We met in a rehearsal studio in west London," Sleep said. "She was in leg-warmers and a leotard. My first thought was, she’s too tall to dance with me, I’ll be a laughing stock: I’m 5ft 2in and she’s 5ft 11in. But I soon realized she had a good sense of humor, and that we could have some fun with our height difference. She’d already decided on the music: Billy Joel’s 'Uptown Girl.'"


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The choreography reportedly included "jazz, ballet, even a kick line," and Diana seemed to love every minute of it. "Now I understand the buzz you get from performing," she later told Sleep.

a man and a woman looking at the camera: Diana and her then-fiancée Prince Charles at the Royal Opera House in 1981. © Mirrorpix - Getty Images Diana and her then-fiancée Prince Charles at the Royal Opera House in 1981.

The whole ordeal was meant to remain under wraps—but in 1995, the tabloids got their hands on photos taken by the Royal Opera House's photographer. Those few black-and-white stills (which you can see in the video above) are all that remains of one of Diana's most beloved stunts—aside, of course, from the lucky few who were in the audience that day, and can remember it for themselves.

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