The photo of Princess Diana dancing with John Travolta while at President Reagan's White House gala is now iconic, but the stunning moment captured on camera could have been very different. According to Paul Burrell, Diana's former butler, the royal had her sights on a different leading man. While the Saturday Night Fever star was a formidable dance partner, Diana really wanted to share the floor with one of the world’s greatest ballet dancers, Mikhail Baryshnikov.
Speaking on the US documentary The Last 100 Days of Diana, Paul said: "Nancy and Ronny Regan set up the press to take a picture of her dancing with John Travolta. She said, 'I didn't really want to dance with him though. I wanted to dance with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Because he is my hero." John Travolta had previously spoken about the special moment, telling Dutch TV station Één that Nancy Reagan suggested that he ask her to dance. "I didn't know or expect to dance with Princess Diana, and it was the president's wife, Nancy Reagan, that said, “It is her wish.” At midnight, I had to tap her on her shoulder, and I had to say, “Would you care to dance.” She turned around and dipped her head in that Lady Diana way and we were off for 15 minutes dancing. I’ll never forget it."
This isn't the first time Paul has spoken about Diana's desire to dance with Mikhail. In his biography The Way We Were, he wrote that Diana said: "John Travolta was a gentleman and absolutely charming but he wasn't my chosen partner." He added that she had once met Mikhail at a stage door of a London theatre so he would autograph her book. "He had signed it without looking at her," Paul added.