‘But now,’ he says, leaping up again, belying his 65 years, swinging his leg up somewhere near his ears, ‘I’m bionic! ‘Male dancers were always on demi pointe, so your toes [he crushes them] are agony. A brilliant surgeon.’From his size to his attitude, he has always been anti-establishment. He said, “Remind me never to dance with you again.” Nureyev could be very temperamental.‘But, you know, even now when I walk into a ballet company crowd, maybe at a gala or something, the director or someone will just go [and he puts an index finger to his mouth, set in a disapproving Wasn’t it hard, though, leaving an institution he’d known all his life? When he used to do Oberon and I was Puck, he would say, “Move out of the way! We were taught in the English style to make everything look easy, whereas he…’ and he gets up, to demonstrate how he would be an English swan, and how Nureyev danced: all that Russian angst in every sinew.
As soon as it’s light, he’s up, all he does now is paint. Wayne Sleep is hunkered down in a big coat, sitting on the wall overlooking the Thames, just across the road from his cottage, which is such a bright pink it might as well be wearing a tutu. He’s now standing up, demonstrating what happened when he was doing another shoot in this spot, and the photographer wanted swans in the background.‘So I was up by the bridge, throwing bread, saying, “C’mon! ”’ And he’s gesturing how, through sheer force of will, he persuaded the swans, real ones, to do as they were told.I remember this man with white hair and black spectacles coming in to watch us do class.