AN extraordinary former Polam Hall School pupil, who supported Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Max Miller and Morecambe and Wise, has died at the age of 92.

Diana Payne-Myers, who was born in Darlington in 1928, was dancing until the end – she spent her 91st birthday on Broadway appearing in An Inspector Calls. She even did a cartwheel and the splits on stage in her late eighties – although she admitted for the latter that “I’m cheating a little”.

Her father, William Payne, was a Scottish GP surgeon who came to Darlington to work – apparently, he would tap dance while he operated.

His eldest daughter, Diana, took ballet, tap and musical comedy lessons while at Polam, which was then a private girls’ school. She had dance lessons from Violet Ballantine, who was also teaching Princess Elizabeth, and a troupe of young performers put on charity shows at the Theatre Royals of York and Newcastle, and Raby Castle.

In 1940, at the start of the Second World War, the Polam pupils were evacuated and Diana ended up boarding at Casterton College in Kirkby Lonsdale.

Her parents then sent her to a secretarial college in Lincolnshire, but she desperately wanted to be a dancer and so worked in a bar in London while paying her way through ballet school.

She had two phases of her career. The first phase was as a serious ballerina, but she also developed a comedy ballet act as The Richards Sisters, which was a big hit in the 1950s era of variety entertainment – it led to her appearing alongside Sinatra and big name comedians, and performing summer seasons at Blackpool and Torquay.

After her marriage in 1958 to Peter Myers, who wrote Cliff Richards’ movie-musicals The Young Ones and Summer Holiday, Diana had a break from the stage to bring up their two children.

She returned to the stage in the late 1970s, after Peter’s death, and reinvented herself in contemporary dance – she performed a clog dance in Paris, appeared naked (apart from knickers) at Tate Modern with a sign saying “Touch Me” around her neck when she was 65, and she had a mould made of her naked body which was then sown with grass seed.

In 2002, she was appointed an MBE for services to dance, and she had a brief conversation with the Queen about their childhood dance teacher. Amazingly supple into her nineties, she continued performing and touring, especially in An Inspector Calls in which she played Edna, a silent maid, for 22 years.

She died suddenly on November 7.