Dance legend Wayne Sleep has agreed to become patron of a Newcastle-based dance company ahead of its forthcoming regional tour.
The one-time senior principal dancer with the Royal Ballet has become the new figurehead of Fertile Ground, a young company set up by choreographer Dora Frankel and based at Dance City.
Sleep, who spent part of his childhood in Hartlepool where he began dancing lessons, is one of the dance world’s best known figures.
He has been dancer, director, choreographer and actor and has appeared many times on television, notably as a panellist on dance shows but also as a contestant in I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!
In 1998 he established The Wayne Sleep Foundation, which provides talented young dancers with scholarships to further their training, and was also awarded the OBE.
The dancer, who at 5ft 2ins was the shortest male dancer ever accepted into the Royal Ballet School, said: “Fertile Ground helps young dancers to develop professionally.
“I know that this company will inspire everyone and wish them great success as they embark on the region-wide tour.”
Fertile Ground artistic director Dora Frankel said: “I am really delighted and moved that Wayne Sleep has offered his support.
“It means a great deal to me and to the whole company that someone of Wayne’s reputation has spoken so warmly about our work.
“His help and patronage ensures that our work can be seen more widely and that our collaboration with the Bowes Museum and Cleveland College of Art and Design can be realised.”
Fertile Ground, comprising some of the most talented young dancers in the country, has been working in collaboration with leading museums and heritage sites, including Bede’s World in Jarrow, the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, and Newcastle’s Discovery Museum.
On the Darkened Wing, a new dance work inspired by the Bowes Museum’s current exhibition Birds of Paradise: Plumes & Feathers in Fashion, involved the company’s dancers collaborating with costume interpretation and design students from the college on Teesside.
Other new pieces to be performed by the dancers – Alicia Meehan, Alys North, Kayleigh Fisk and Holly Bellamy – are A New Chimera by Tom Dale and Shields of Bone by Eleesha Drennan. Both are known as successful and innovative choreographers.
Fertile Ground begins its new tour at The Maltings, Berwick, on February 12 and then performs at a range of venues in Keswick, Sunderland, Jarrow, Newcastle, Gateshead, Barnard Castle, Washington and South Shields.
For full details of the tour go to www.fertileground.org.uk