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His Own Words – Sergei Polunin

His Own Words – Sergei Polunin

His Own Words – Sergei Polunin

Sergei Polunin is a Ukrainian ballet dancer and a former principal dancer with the British Royal Ballet, before suddenly resigning in 2012, after only two years in the position. Polunin has a reputation for wild behavior, earning the nickname the “Bad Boy of Ballet.” He has recently gained more popularity following his performance in a music video choreographed to Hozier‘s hit single “Take Me To Church.” The music video was part of a larger Steven Cantor documentary on Polunin, Dancer, which premiered in 2016.

SERGEI POLUNIN BIO: EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION

Polunin was born Sergei Vladimirovich Polunin on November 20, 1989 (Sergei Polunin age: 27) in Kherson, Ukrainian SSR, to Galina Polunina and Vladimir PoluninFrom the age of four, the future dancer excelled in gymnastics classes. At age eight, his studies shifted towards dance, and he spent four years at the Kiev State Choreographic Institute. Polunina, in an interview with the New Yorker, suggests that pushing her son towards dance was his best shot for a better life. “In my life, the choices were between salted cabbage and marinated cabbage,” she said. “I wanted him to have more of a choice than that.” The extent to which she wanted her son to succeed was so extreme that she moved with Polunin to Kiev, causing the family to split up in order to make ends meet. Polunin’s father sought work in Portugal, while his grandmother became a maid in Greece, all to support his growing career.

In 2013, Polunin was accepted to the White Lodge, the Royal Ballet’s junior school in London, at the age of thirteen. At first devastated that they would not be able to afford the tuition, Polunin still attended largely in part from a grant given by the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation. Unfortunately, this meant that Polunina had to stay in the Ukraine, leaving behind her teenage son. Faced with his family’s sacrifices and the mounting pressure to succeed, Polunin became a star pupil. “In school, I knew I could not fight, could not mess up, because I would be thrown out,” he told Uinterview. “And then when I was twenty-one, I wanted to do all the things I missed out on.” He did enjoy the freedom of the two thousand acres of parkland surrounding the school, saying he felt like he, “Was in Harry Potter.” Polunin’s success was such that his teachers advanced him a full two school years ahead.

SERGEI POLUNIN BIO: THE ROYAL BALLET AND RESIGNATION

Once in the senior school, Polunin’s discipline began to dissolve. While still excelling in his studies, the rising start experimented with drugs. By 2009, he was the first soloist at the Royal Ballet; by 2010, he came principal dancer, the youngest ever in the company’s history. He also earned his title of “Bad Boy” at this time, using cocaine to heighten his adrenaline rush and tweeting about late night parties and tattoos. In an interview with Uinterview, Polunin talked about his experience of getting a tattoo, which was strictly forbidden by the Royal Ballet. “Oh you think I’m bad, I’m going to prove [to] you I’m the baddest [sic],” he recalled. “I always drew on myself, always knew I was going to have a tattoo, and tattoos represented freedom to me.” He was forced to cover his new tattoos with makeup. On January 24, 2012, after growing dissatisfaction with his career, Polunin stepped down from the principal position, telling BBC that he felt, “the artist in me was dying.” Looking back on the dancer’s decision, documentarian Steven Cantor offered his thoughts to the New York Times about Polunin’s motivations. “It became clear that he was dancing as hard as he could to get his family back together. Then his parents got divorced, and I think he felt, what am I dancing for? He just lost his will and went off the rails.” Polunin only recently allowed his mother to see his performances in person; he originally forbade her to do so.

SERGEI POLUNIN BIO: IGOR ZELENSKY

As a result of his bad reputation, Polunin had difficulty finding work with other companies. However, in the summer of 2012, he was invited to Russia by famous dancer Igor Zelensky, under whom he would train and become the principal dancer for The Stanislavsky Music Theatre and Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre. On Zelensky, Polunin has referred to him as a surrogate father. “Nobody would listen to me, there wasn’t any real conversation going on,” Polunin told Uinterview. “And that’s when Igor appeared.” Polunin reveres Zelensky so much that he has gone as far as to tattoo the name of the artistic director on his shoulder.

His time with Zelensky was not without controversy, however. In April 2013, after preparing for the principal dance role in director Peter Schaufuss’s Midnight Express, Polunin, along with Zelensky, quit days before opening night. Despite his superior also leaving the troubled production, many considered Polunin to be “depressed” again.

SERGEI POLUNIN BIO: HOZIER AND DANCER

Still frustrated at the seemingly dead-end to which his dance career had led him, Polunin encountered film producer Gabrielle Tana, who at the time had optioned Julie Kavanagh’s (the author behind his New Yorker profile) biography of Nureyev to be turned into a biopic. Polunin was not chosen for the role, but Tana pushed him to seek further collaborations in film. “I thought it was not just a compelling narrative but also the opportunity to capture someone brilliant in the prime of their career,” Ms. Tana said in an interview with The New York Times. “We didn’t really know what it would be, and Sergei was very wary at first. We were scared we would lose him.”

Tana suggested he work with American photographer and dance documentarian, David LaChapelle. Polunin ultimately decided to use the collaboration as his farewell performance to the dance world. LaChapelle suggested the then-relatively-unknown song “Take Me To Church,” by Hozier. Polunin would then fly down to shoot the music video in the empty chapel-like filmmaker’s studio in Hawaii. A longtime friend and fellow dancer, Jade Hale-Christofi, choreographed the piece. The music video would later become the centerpiece of large documentary work, Dancer, started in 2014 when Tana approached filmmaker Stephen Cantor. Dancer premiered in the Fall of 2016.

Following the worldwide success of Polunin’s Take Me To Church video, he has since decided to return to dancing. He continues to dance with Stanislavsky company and the Novosibirsk Ballet.

SERGEI POLUNIN BIO: PERSONAL LIFE

Polunin has been dating ballerina Natalia Osipova, who is a principal dancer at the Royal Ballet, since mid-2015. The pair has performed together in Russell Maliphant‘s Silent Echo, as part of a program of contemporary works. He has received numerous accolades for his performances, including the Prix de Lausanne and Youth America Grand Prix in 2006. He was named Young British Dancer of the Year in 2007.  In 2014 he was shortlisted as the best male dancer at the National Dance Awards in the U.K.

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This article was published by Uinterview on December 19, 2016.
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Another Man

Another Man

“RUSSIAN PRODIGY Sergei Polunin HAD SOARED TO THE SCORCHING HEAVENS OF BALLET. BUT, TORMENTED BY ITS SUFFOCATING STRICTURES, HE WALKED AWAY FROM THE WORLD OF DANCE AGED JUST 24. NOW, WITH DEMONS FINALLY CONQUERED AND HIS SIGHTS SET ON CINEMA, THE FIERY PERFORMER IS READY TO RISE AGAIN.” – Another Man magazine, issue #25

Sergei Polunin seems like a creature from another time, an era of fairytale, when the thin silk that separates myth from reality was at its most fragile. It’s as if he has stepped directly through the veil, from a place where darkness is lit by flames and hooves echo across cobblestone.

He seems completely out of place, here, in Los Angeles, in midsummer 2017. He moves like a pale ghost through the sunburnt crowds hunched over their phones along Hollywood Boulevard. Tightly muscled, tall but still delicate somehow, he exudes a romantic, Byronic kind of elegance. He’s beautiful, but in the way of silent movie leading men – Valentino, Keaton – a face of angles and extremes.

It is only when he finally sits down in a red leather booth in the city’s oldest restaurant (Musso and Frank, circa 1919) that he seems to have arrived in the kind of present that suits him. A tuxedoed waiter takes his order; the wood table glows with polish, there are fine linens, real silver. Polunin smiles, looks around and nods approvingly. Then he takes a breath and, in softly accented English, begins to tell his story.

“It started with Take Me to Church,” he says quietly, “suddenly, people’s whole approach, their whole behaviour changed. I realised that maybe… that I can possibly change something. That I shouldn’t be a weak person who quits. And I realised that something might be done that – if I quit – is not going to be done. So that’s how it all began.”

For those who don’t know who Polunin is, there’s a simple introduction. Go to YouTube, type in his name and step back in wonder. At last tally, there were 20,860,577 views of a video, directed by photographer David LaChapelle and backed by Hozier: Take Me to Church captures Polunin’s last dance, his farewell (at age 24) to ballet, an art he’d studied since the age of four, an art to which (as he tells it) he had sacrificed both his childhood and his family. In the video, Polunin takes traditional ballet and turns it into catharsis. He seems to hover in the air, to float, to fly. His body is lean, nearly naked, covered in tattoos. His face shows a mix of emotion: vulnerability, frustration and, finally, elation. It’s intoxicating to watch.

“IT STARTED WITH TAKE ME TO CHURCH…SUDDENLY, PEOPLE’S WHOLE APPROACH, THEIR WHOLE BEHAVIOUR CHANGED” – SERGEI POLUNIN

In the 2016 documentary Dancer, Polunin’s story is chronicled in all its mythic rise-and-fall glory. It goes something like this: born in relative poverty in the Ukraine, he was crowned a ballet prodigy soon after he took his first steps. His mother, father and grandmother did everything in their power to put him in the best schools, offer him the best possibilities.

This meant separation, his parents’ eventual divorce, Polunin on his own in London as a pre-teen onward. He was the top student at the prestigious Royal Ballet Academy and aged 19 selected as the youngest principal dancer ever of the Royal Ballet. He was feted and celebrated, critiqued and acclaimed. His rebellions were tabloid fodder. His victories were breathtaking. To watch Polunin dance is to be awed. But it was all too much, a fast build to a dramatic end.

On 24th January 2012, just two years after joining the company, Polunin announced his resignation, claiming loudly that, “the artist in me was dying”. There was a sojourn to Russia, a series of demeaning TV competitions, and eventual tutelage under renowned artistic director Igor Zelensky. There was success and there was turmoil. Finally in 2014, Polunin decided to call it officially quits. He met up with Chapelle in a sundrenched Hawaiian church to film Take Me to Church and to take what was to be his final bow.

Except it wasn’t.

another man sergei polunin another man sergei polunin

Take Me to Church gave me the opportunity to experience collaboration,” Polunin explains. “I was like, ‘Oh, that’s what it is. That’s how it should feel.’ And suddenly, I wanted everybody to experience that. I wanted to create movies about dance, and create more pieces like that because I realized that it’s very, very important to crossover, to share ballet with everyone.”

Instead of ending his career, the video ignited it. Polunin found a whole new audience, the vast world watching from their computer screens. The piece went viral – and so did Polunin. “I had quit ballet, but I realised that was weak of me. That what I needed to do was share ballet,” he says.

Polunin became an overnight internet sensation. The comments poured in, people from all over the globe confessing their admiration, thanking him for the inspiration. He and Chapelle had touched something deep. And Polunin began to rethink his retirement. “I started to see that the ballet establishment had to be broken. Ballet is stuck. It’s the only art form which didn’t evolve and it lost a few things – because the best directors, best musicians, they work where the biggest output is, where you can reach bigger audiences. Ballet is very closed and it’s for elitists – it shouldn’t be like that. I think everybody should enjoy it.”

“DANCE IS IMPORTANT. IT’S THAT LANGUAGE THAT EVERYBODY UNDERSTANDS. IT’S A POWERFUL TOOL TO OPEN PEOPLE’S MINDS” – SERGEI POLUNIN

Since the Take Me to Church phenomenon, Sergei has formed his own foundation, the Polunin Project, with an aim to bring ballet to the masses. “It’s a spiritual-like experience,” he says of ballet, “and it’s possible I think to transfer that. I’ve been trying to bring dance closer to people, to wider audiences. That’s why we created this project, to move, in any way possible, dance forward.”

“We have the photographers, the music people to collaborate and to create art. And as well I want to create movies about dance. I think it’s very, very important to crossover. Ultimately, my vision is ballet has to open up to agents, to managers, to TV, to videos, to Netflix, to YouTube. Because I don’t see why people who cannot afford a ticket can’t watch it at home. You watch sport at home. Once a week to watch ballet would be, I think… transcendent.”

Despite this enthusiasm for dance, Polunin is still very much the rebel when it comes to defying the ballet establishment. His much talked about exit from the Royal Ballet still obviously hits a raw nerve. He bristles when talking about his experiences with the more conservative aspects of the art. His voice grows lower, tense.

Dancers work 11 hours a day, six times a week. When I was working as a principal dancer that was the hardest I ever, ever worked. And you will finish your career after 10 years.” Polunin points to his head, smirking, “because after 10 years you might start thinking. And realising that it is maybe the worst job to be in. The money is low. Crew get more money. Musicians get unions. And everywhere dancers get treated with the least respect. I still haven’t worked it out. The approach to dancers is like to kids. I never see stage people talk to musicians that way. But with dancers it’s okay to do that.”

Polunin checks himself and softens. “But ballet itself – it’s important. Dance is important. It’s that language that everybody understands. It’s a powerful tool to open people’s minds. There’s a subconscious thing, a connection we all have. Kids dance before walking. It’s our truest nature of being. It’s true spirit.”

He pauses. “And then, slowly and slowly, as we grow older, we get more and more baggage and life changes you. We are more scared of things, more fearful. So how to eliminate that? We have to go back to how we were as a kid, because that’s our truest nature. And with ballet, that is how I’m trying to come back to this state of mind. Because that’s the purest state. Tribes dance. Every country has a national dance. In the clubs we dance, we dance at weddings. Dance is a language. It’s a language that we need, like music, to survive.”

another man sergei polunin another man sergei polunin

This is how Polunin talks, at 27 years old. In part because he was raised in ballet, amid structure, discipline, beauty and philosophy. He grew up, matured, became a man, within an older art. A more refined one. And despite his issues with the constrictions, the rules, the exhaustion, and the exploitation, ballet has formed and shaped him – not just his body, but also his mind, his way of thinking and being.

The dedication he has to share dance with the world, is also a reflection of the stubborn perseverance he learned from many years and countless hours committed to his craft. It is because of this perseverance that, today, Polunin is not just surviving, he’s thriving. He’s dancing all over the globe, performing just the past evening for thousands at Los Angeles’ legendary Hollywood Bowl.

Now he’s moved into acting as well – he’ll be appearing in not one, but four upcoming films, among them the spy thriller Red Sparrow with Jennifer Lawrence, the Agatha Christie classic Murder on the Orient Express and in the highly anticipated biopic of legendary ballet bad boy Rudolf Nureyev, White Crow. Directed by Ralph Fiennes, the latter film was rumored to star Polunin as his infamous predecessor, but today Polunin quietly explains there have been some changes in casting. He will say only that, “I’ll do whatever they need me to do for the film, the very best I can do it.”

“I’m learning a completely new skill and that’s very exciting,” he says of acting, “and acting is not just acting. You learn about yourself. That’s what I think is special about it. Before I thought acting was like, ‘Oh, I learned a new skill.’ But no. It requires a much deeper understanding of existence and of being human, what it is to be human. You are really searching through your own memories – you have to really know who you are. Going into childhood memory.”

“I’M PREPARED TO DESTROY EVERYTHING I HAVE TO HAVE THAT OPPORTUNITY TO FEEL FREE” – SERGEI POLUNIN

What Polunin also seems to enjoy about acting is the collaborative nature of it, the family of artists necessary to make a film. “What I really loved is being together,” he admits. “It’s working with others. It’s not like you’re by yourself doing something. You are a team. You’re one with the camera, you’re one with the director, you’re one with your co-worker, so it’s like you are creating together. You feel like you are a part of something, rather than doing it all by yourself.” He pauses and thinks for a moment.

“I want to be able to feel freedom. I never want to be owned by anything and be stuck with anything. It’s like this…” he reaches down and picks up a heavy silver knife in one hand, clutching it tight in his fist and pointing to it. “We think if we let go of a person, let them free, they’re going to disappear. But you don’t need to clench and suffocate people. It’s on many levels – on the parenting level, on working level, on friendship level, on a social level. It’s important to push that boundary. What I’ve found is that by letting go of a person, letting them free, he’s still yours, but there is a still a feeling of freedom.”

Here Polunin stops and turns his fist over, opening his fingers up, slowly, dramatically. The knife rests gently on his open palm. Polunin smiles broadly. “It’s a feeling of freedom,” he says again, “that’s what’s important. That’s what I always fight for and I’m prepared to destroy everything I have to have that opportunity to feel free. Everybody wants to control or own. I’m against that. I felt like I was owned for so long. I was looking to feel freedom. When I quit Royal Ballet… it would be amazing if I could have stayed and found that feeling of freedom. But instead, I destroyed everything and went all the way down, to be able to climb up.”

another man sergei polunin another man sergei polunin

Polunin shakes his head. He looks suddenly older, wiser: “For many years, I had a negativity in me, and I never used to be like that. It’s just that life takes a toll on you and then you start. And it’s comfortable. Being negative is very easy. Being bad is easier. It takes a lot of strength to be on a good path and that, for me, was a conscious decision. Let’s go up. Sometimes I went down and I just had to rebuild, build, build. Slowly regain. With Take Me to Church, kids were watching, were being inspired and I realized that this inspiration I was giving them, this positive message, was a stronger tool than trying to destroy things. I had to learn not to destroy because you’re hurting people around you. Even now I’m always on the verge of destroying things.”

Polunin trails off… a shadow passes his face. Then, he shakes it off, looks up and grins. And he is young again, joyful, the shadow gone.

Spend time with Polunin and you realise what defines him most is this earnestness – emotion and truthfulness always moving across the surface for all to see. He speaks his mind, for better or for worse.  Self-obsessed and self-aware, Polunin, at 27 in 2017 – is beautiful, famous, volatile and complex. And there is more to come. More dance, more art, more self-exploration.

If your spirit is not broken, nothing can take you down

“You always have in life, different paths. And you choose,” he says, “But for me it is always choosing to be an artist before anything.  What is more important than art? Without it, we’d be nothing. We’d have nothing. The artist – he creates a building, he designs a car, a rocket. The world needs an artist’s vision. Who would we be without the artists to design our clothes? Or make music? And the thing is, I think art is in everybody. It’s important for people to be creative. To sing, to dance. You need creativity because creativity gives you confidence.  Confidence is very important, because it gives you spirit, and if your spirit is not broken – nothing can take you down.”

TEXT:  Jessica Hundle
PHOTOGRAPHY:  Collier Schorr
STYLING:  Alister Mackie

Hair Matt Mulhall at Streeters; Make-up Laura Dominique at Streeters; Set design Andrea Cellerino at Streeters; Photographic assistants PJ Spaniol, Will Grundy; Digital technician Stefano Poli; Styling assistants Reuben Esser, Rhys Davies, Steph Francis; Retouching Two Three Two; Production Sylvia Farago Ltd.

Mayerling “Love Deaths” Still Haunt

Mayerling “Love Deaths” Still Haunt

mayerling
Mayerling Lodge as it appeared in 1889. Photo: Public Domain

One of Sergei Polunin’s greatest roles is that of Crown Prince Rudolf in Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s “Mayerling.”  He drew rave reviews for his pristine ballet technique and innate talent, but even more so for his emotional torching of the stage.  Many fans, while adoring the ballet “Mayerling,” are a bit lost when it comes to understanding the story.  It is a tragic tale that is based in fact.  The Mayerling deaths were real, and happened to real people.  

The Mayerling deaths

For more than 100 years, the mysterious “love deaths” at Mayerling, a village just southwest of Vienna.  They have gripped the imagination of the world and provided the raw material for many a play, film and even a ballet by Sir Kenneth MacMillan for The Royal Ballet.
The year 1989 marked the centennial of the Mayerling tragedy.  It was observed with the publication of books and articles analyzing the incident, the details of which were purposely obscured at the time the events occurred.

On Jan. 30, 1889, Crown Prince Rudolf, archduke of Austria-Hungary and heir to the Hapsburg crown, was found dead in the imperial hunting lodge at Mayerling, in the Vienna Woods, about 15 miles from the capital. Beside the body of the 30-year-old prince lay that of his mistress, the Baroness Mary Vetsera, 17.  Both had been shot.

mayerling

Prince Rudolf

Rudolf was the son of Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria and the famously beautiful and infamously melancholy Empress Elisabeth. Young Rudolf seemed to be a very different type than his cold and calculating father.  He developed an early passion for the natural sciences, liberal politics, and a somewhat more delicate sensibility in general.

By the time Rudolf was wed to Princess Stephanie of Belgium in 1881, he had already established the other habit that would appear to be his undoing.  He had a certain weakness for the ladies.  In fact, he allegedly brought a lover with him to his wedding.

Within a few short years, the marriage devolved into a relationship of mutual tolerance. Rudolf’s womanizing, drinking, and more recently acquired drug habit took over his life, apparently leading him in a downward spiral.

Seventeen year old Mary

Mary Vetsara on the other hand, appeared to be a young woman very much smitten with the prince. The 17 year old baroness, however, was not Rudolf’s first choice for his suicide pact. He actually attempted to convince another woman, a prostitute named Mitzi Caspar, to die with him. She declined his offer.

Mary and Rudolf left Vienna for the hunting lodge in Mayerling on January 29th, 1889.  The prince claimed he wanted to do a bit of hunting the following morning. Sometime in the night, Rudolf shot and killed Mary, and then turned the gun on himself. When the staff came to the door in the morning, the bodies were discovered.

A massive cover-up operation followed.  The royal family attempted to pass off Rudolf’s death as one of natural causes.  They tried to hide Mary’s body entirely.

Suicide?

A finding of murder was out of the question.  Rudolf, after all, was heir to the throne. At first there was even no mention of suicide, out of fear that the church would not permit a proper burial. Rudolf’s death was attributed to poison at the hands of his enemies, or to natural causes.

Because Rudolf was unhappily married to Princess Stephanie of Belgium, no public mention was made of the teen-age baroness. Her body was spirited away and secretly buried.

Finally, the emperor informed the Pope that Rudolf had committed suicide in a “deranged state of mind.”  The Pope then allowed Rudolf a Catholic burial in the imperial vault in Vienna.

Mayerling mystery

The mystery gave rise to much speculation about the circumstances surrounding the deaths. Much of it emphasized the romantic aspects of Mayerling. Not until years later did the details became widely known.  But because the incident had been so shrouded in secrecy and deceit, conflicting versions endure.

For instance, Clemens M. Gruber, an author and opera archivist, published an account called “The Fateful Days of Mayerling.”  In Gruber’s view, Mary’s angry relatives forced their way into the lodge and Rudolf drew a revolver, accidentally shooting the baroness. He is then said to have been killed by one of her enraged relatives.

Another writer, Gerd Holler, who is also a physician, says in his book, “Mayerling–New Documents on the Tragedy 100 Years Afterward,” that Rudolf had arranged an abortion for Mary, who was reputedly three months pregnant. Holler contends that she died in the process and that Rudolf committed suicide.

Attempts to exhume the body of the baroness for examination have been blocked by members of her family.

Murder?

Empress Zita, who died at the age of 96 in a Swiss convent, argued that Rudolf was murdered by French political enemies of his father. She was the consort of Karl I, the last emperor and grand nephew of Franz Joseph.

Most scholars now prefer the version offered by historian Brigitte Hamann in her book, “Rudolf, Crown Prince and Rebel.” Hamann, who took part in a recent international conference on the incident at Mayerling, said in an interview:

“He was a poetic young man and brooded a lot. He was ill with syphilis and felt guilty that he had infected his wife. They had no children. The reason for all the confusion was the cover-up by the Imperial Court…  The fact is that Rudolf was a very nervous, sensitive man who flirted with suicide more than once.”

According to Hamann, the Baroness Vetsera, who was in love with the increasingly despondent Rudolf, was more susceptible to the love-death idea.

“There is no question,” she said. “Rudolf shot the girl and then himself.”

Their end brought about the end

Rudolf is buried in the Habsburg family crypt in Vienna, and Mary’s body lies in a modest grave in Heiligenkreuz, Austria.

Rudolf’s death left Franz Josef I without an heir, leading to the succession of Franz Ferdinand whose assassination in 1914 kicked off the hostilities of WWI, and effectively led to the end of the Hapsburg dynasty.

After the deaths, the emperor ordered the hunting lodge at Mayerling razed, and the area was transformed into a Carmelite church.  A small museum houses artifacts related to the deaths.  The Carmelite nuns there still pray for the souls of Rudolf and Mary.

This is a blog post by Pam Boehme Simon that includes excerpts from a March 19, 1989 article by William Tuohy, a Times staff writer, and a atlas travel article featuring the Mayerling Hunting Lodge.

Peace, Love, & Ballet… Groovy.

Peace, Love, & Ballet… Groovy.

Peace Love Ballet

Sergei Polunin is many things… and usually the superlative of every last one.   In this post, I choose to focus on something that (like most of what he does) not all of us come by naturally… his groove.  Sergei is, without a doubt, wicked groovy.  Boasting the swagger of the young and carefree, he fuses exquisite ballet technique, superb natural abilities, and stunning physical attributes into one very cool persona.   Sergei palling up with David LaChapelle for the Diesel “Make Love, Not Walls” promotion was a groundbreaking, masterpiece of psychedelic peace, love, and harmony.

Yes, he is a white tights ballet god if there ever was one, but, never has a pair of jeans looked so good.  The film footage is stunning and shows off his youth, talent, and exuberance.  His happiness is contagious, and one cannot help but smile and step a little lighter after watching the production.

I choreograph with pixels

Now, as one who looks at video as a raw medium to be played with, celebrated, promoted, and spread forth even farther across the vast interwebs, “Make Love, Not Walls” was irresistible.  First off, I give complete and utter props to those who created it in the first place and it is with great care that I honor their vision.  It is my goal to maintain their original ideas, plans, and wishes, and send worthy reincarnations of it out to to reiterate and reinforce their conception.

That being said, here are a trio of my works that were inspired by and born of Diesel’s amazing 2017 advertising campaign “Make Love, Not Walls,” by David LaChapelle.

 Let there be PEACE love ballet

Then, peace LOVE ballet

And peace love BALLET

Finally, peace love ballet SERGEI

Sergei’s Swan Swims

Sergei’s Swan Swims

“And The Swan Is Swimming”

Belcanto.ru

 Ekaterina Belyaeva, 11.10.2012

"Swan Lake" at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theater

The ballet season at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theater opened on September 29 with Swan Lake.  Vladimir Burmeister’s version. Apart from the fact that it is a cult spectacle for the theater and, in general, a cult Russian ballet, plus the highest-grossing ballet of all time.  The “Swan” Burmeister celebrates several dates this season. Sixty years from the day of his birth will be celebrated with official festivities and even a mini-festival at the MAMT in April 2013.  Secondly, on September 9, it will be eighty-five years from the birthday of the first Odette-Odile Violetta Trofimovna Bovt (1927-1995).  The famous Moscow ballerina danced for thirty-five years on the stage of her native Stasika, becoming the first performer of many ballets of the post-war repertoire.

The main reason to visit this first performance of the season was not his “bearded” jubilees, but the debuts of young performers – Erika Mikirticheva and Sergei Polunin .

The latter began the duties of the premiere of the Moscow theater at the end of last season, having fled in February from London‘s Covent Garden. Despite his youth (22 years), the artist, apparently, experienced an existential crisis.  He got too much luck – he came from Ukraine, he joined the celebrated English troupe, quickly became principal, he danced a dozen leading roles from Capt. Solyon in the “Winter Dreams” of McMillan to Solor in La Bayadere.  In passing, I found out that he does not need a free flow of roles, if there is no time for reflection.  Polunin resigned and went into hiding until he was caught up with the call of the choreographer of the ballet MAMT Igor Zelensky with an invitation to Moscow to work and with promises of a creative atmosphere (in one interview, the artist complained that his English director, Monica Mason, had never even really talked to him ).

"Swan Lake" at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theater

The atmosphere for the dancer was unusual: almost two hours it was necessary to be on stage and only twenty minutes of them to dance – basically as a ballerina supporting partner.

The fact is that Burmeister, when composing his version of Swan in 1953, made changes mainly to the plot, to the composition inside the paintings, to the music and the party of Odile, and Siegfried received almost nothing in comparison with the pre-revolutionary editions.  Burmeister in the play has a prologue and an epilogue, which clearly tells the story of the transformation of Odette into a swan: a curtain opens in the middle of the overture, a young girl in a white dress runs out from the wings, an evil owl (Rothbart) stands on a rock and wings theatrically, the girl disappears imperceptibly,  Then on the flat lake in the background a plastic swan moves in the crown, the curtain closes, and the music still sounds for a few minutes.

The whole of the first picture Prince Siegfried nervously wanders around the stage, drinking wine from the cup, humbly nods to the Queen Mother,

while his friends and a jester entertain him and themselves dancing to the music that was originally written by Tchaikovsky for this picture, but later partially capped, and partially used by Petipa to create his brilliant black pas de deux 3 act.

The courtiers flaunt semiclassical dances, which once made their creator famous, and today look very archaically – as museum exhibits from the era of the USSR. All the time you expect that secondary characters with jumps to dull sixth positions will give way to the handsome prince, but will not happen. The second picture corresponds to the classical white picture of Lev Ivanov, only in a shortened format (there are fewer swans, the amplitude of all movements is more modest).

"Swan Lake" at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theater

The main trick for setting Burmeister – the third picture. Odile as a fatal woman appears at the ball along with the Spaniards and accompanied by Rothbart (absolutely pedestrian character). She seduces the prince not because she looks like Odette, whom he is in love with, but because he looks like Carmen, and she seduces everyone. Black pas de deux at Burmeister also exists – but in his author’s choreography (with tricks like a Don-Kikhotovsky jump of a ballerina in the hands of a partner) and to the music known to us on the Pas de de Tchaikovsky-Balanchine. At the same time Rothbart ( Anton Domashov ) constantly sympathetically interferes in the personal life of her daughter and her alleged bridegroom right at the time of their main dance. It is clear already that

Polunin, when he reached his short variation, gave out to the maximum – picturesque pirouettes, double tours with accurate landings in the fifth, stone solid, etc.

In pantomime and gaming pieces Polunin kept in character delicately, which pleased.

The fourth picture is not significant, except for the sugary, fantastic-plastic happy ending. Odette does not just not die a swan, she survives and regains her human appearance (puts on a dress and looks like a fairy Alyonushka) to match Siegfried.

The work of Erika Mikirticheva was rather liked, although she still has to sharpen the role.

There were a lot of technical inconsistencies that would improve in time. Actress’s audacity Odile, she threw out with interest, but not enough aplomb and, in general, hardness in the movements.

In the theater they openly say that they have a change of generations.

Two debuts of the young in the first ballet evening – this is a good start. We will wait for the continuation. October 29 Polunin will dance Basil in “Don Quixote” A. Chichinadze – another rarity from the “treasury” MAMT.

Photos by Mikhail Logvinov

 

Sergei Helps Make A Ballerina 2018

Sergei Helps Make A Ballerina 2018

Need To Turn A Hollywood Star Into a Ballerina? Call Kurt Froman

By Jennifer Stahl for Dance Magazine February 2018

Kurt Froman with Jennifer Lawrence, whom he coached for the upcoming film Red Sparrow
 How does someone go from a New York City Ballet corps member to training Hollywood A-listers like Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara and Jennifer Lawrence? By getting injured, says Kurt Froman.

When an ankle sprain left him sidelined a few years back, Froman was “sitting at home, depressed” when he sent his friend Benjamin Millepied an email asking what he was up to. It turned out that Millepied just been hired to choreograph some scenes for a movie, but had to be in Paris during pre-production. “He needed someone to teach two actors choreography and get them in shape,” says Froman. With nothing else on his plate, he said yes, and started prepping Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis for Black Swan.

Since then, one gig has led to another. Froman helped Rooney Mara get more comfortable in her body for some dance-y scenes in Terrence Malick’s Song to Song. Amazon hired him to train Christina Ricci to perform a short solo on pointe for its TV series “Z: The Beginning of Everything.”

His latest highprofile gig was training Jennifer Lawrence for the big-budget spy thriller Red Sparrow, in theaters March 2. He talked to Dance Magazine about what it takes to speed-learn ballet, how much these kinds of gigs pay and what he has to say to all the ballet-in-Hollywood haters.

Froman Had To Create A Believable Bolshoi Principal

With no prior dance training, Lawrence had to pass for a Bolshoi principal during a six-minute sequence Justin Peck was choreographing for the beginning of Red Sparrow. Although Isabella Boylston would be her dance double, Lawrence needed to be able to hit the right marks at the right time, with believable épaulement and port de bras for the visual effects to work.

“Jen had to know all six minutes of choreography, the rises and falls of the body, how to hold her arms correctly, how to be lifted by her partner [Sergei Polunin], how to do finger turns and spot her head,” Froman says. To make sure she hit the right steps at the right time, they filmed her under tempo at about 75 percent of the actual speed. But she impressed everyone involved by memorizing the full sequence.

Froman Teaches More Than Just Ballet Class

Froman and Lawrence worked together for three and a half months, four hours a day, five days a week. Before diving into Peck’s lightning-fast choreography, they’d start with 45 minutes at the barre each morning to help Lawrence learn the rules of ballet. “Also, for the character, it was helpful for her to have the discipline and get used to someone touching her and correcting her like ballet masters would,” says Froman. They worked with rotation disks to help her understand turnout, and did strength training to develop a ballet dancer’s deltoid muscles. (Lawrence also had a separate Pilates and fitness teacher.)

He Breaks Down All the Little Details

Training a Hollywood actor isn’t just about teaching them steps. Froman also has to break down things like the philosophy of ballet—why a certain angle is considered more beautiful than another—and how dancers hold and care for their bodies.

Froman showed Lawrence archival films of iconic Balanchine ballerinas like Merrill Ashley, Maria Tallchief and Melissa Hayden performing Firebird to explain the difference between this bird and Odette/Odile.

“The director, Francis Lawrence, also had me talk to her about things like how would a dancer sit—if she were sitting on a bed, would she be rubbing her feet, or doing a hamstring stretch? How would she walk down the street? Things that had to be carried throughout the film.”

The Paycheck Is Surprisingly…Ordinary

Froman says the pay for these projects varies based on who’s hiring him and what the budget is. But he hasn’t exactly hit the Hollywood jackpot. For Black Swan, he agreed to a flat fee that didn’t amount to much once he put in all the hours. Now he charges an hourly fee. “It’s adequate compensation,” he says, “but no more than what a personal trainer would get.”

Froman on the set of Black Swan. Photo via Vimeo

He’s Tapping An Undiscovered Market

Froman has realized that, beyond just training in ballet, there are many actors who simply want to be more comfortable in their bodies. “If they know there’s a dance scene, they want to feel capable and confident, they want to have options for what they can do in the moment.”

Froman Loves Helping Bring Ballet To The Masses

Although Hollywood sometimes gets flak from the dance world for misrepresenting the art form, Froman relishes the opportunity to reach a broad audience. “When I started dancing in Texas in the 80s, there wasn’t anything out there that I had as an example of what I wanted to do, except The Turning Point, which I would watch every day,” he says. “I’ve loved having a hand in this process, and feel lucky to pass on my art form.”

 

It’s Elemental!

It’s Elemental!

Earth, Air, Fire, Water… and Sergei!!

“Elemental” Sergei Polunin / Сергей Полунин

Earth – La Bayadere

Air – Sleeping Beauty

Fire – Marguerite & Armand

Water – Sleeping Beauty

Music: “The Long Story” by Damiano Baldoni with permission under license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/

Please subscribe to my Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/PamBoehmeSimon For additional videos and info, please visit my fan site at http://sergeipoluningracefulbeast.com

Sergei Polunin is a Ukrainian ballet dancer famous for his “once every hundred years” talent, his incredulous elevation, his impeccable technique, and glorious dramatic range. He brought an unprecedented new awareness to ballet when he danced in Hozier’s viral video ”Take Me To Church.” He starred in Diesel’s “Make Love Not Walls” campaign, and is a much sought after model and actor. He has appeared in such films as Murder On The Orient Express, Dancer (a documentary of his life), White Crow, and Red Sparrow.

This is a ballet|Полунин балет iMovie by Pam Boehme Simon.

Thank you for watching.

Sergei & Manon, 2011

Sergei & Manon, 2011

Manon, Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Review

Lauren Cuthbertson makes her mark in her debut performance of Manon at the Royal Opera House.

4 out of 5 stars
Sergei Polunin as Des Grieux,  Lauren Cuthbertson as Manon at the Royal Opera House
Perfect: Sergei Polunin as Des Grieux, Lauren Cuthbertson as Manon at the Royal Opera House Photo: Alastair Muir

In 2009 the Royal Ballet principal Lauren Cuthbertson was diagnosed with glandular fever, which turned into agonisingly debilitating ME and necessitated not only an 18-month lay-off from the stage, but long periods of total physical incapacity.

She might never have danced again. In fact, she has returned to the stage, a different and more interesting ballerina, one determined to fulfil her ambition to perform the most challenging roles in the balletic repertoire.

And as challenges go, Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon is up there with the best of them. His three-act interpretation of the Abbé Prévost’s tragic novel is not so much the story of virginal innocence corrupted but of a voracious minx foiled. Manon may be on her way to a convent when we first see her, but she is never in any doubt about the power her beauty grants her in the world, and her treatment of the adoring student Des Grieux, whom she abandons for the jewels and furs offered by a rich protector, is little short of scandalous.

The trick is not only to negotiate the intricate swoops and entanglements of MacMillan’s evocative choreography, which sees Manon constantly passed from man to man like an expensive bauble, but also to make you care about this calculating, irrational heroine.

On her debut, Cuthbertson makes her mark. This is a wonderfully detailed performance, a carefully charted journey from girlish tease to enraptured lover to hard-bitten courtesan and finally to heart-broken and dying waif. She makes you so conscious of Manon’s love of luxury, her longing for the good life, that you understand her rash decisions even if you don’t sympathise with them. Her dancing is sumptuous but careful; there is a tiny bit of abandon lacking.

Her Des Grieux, however, is another matter. Sergei Polunin’s extreme youth makes him perfect for the dewy-eyed dreamer who throws his life away in thrall to Manon’s beauty. When we first see him in a big hat, with clumsy, out-turned feet, he is almost comically the innocent abroad. Then, as the role takes hold, the sheer purity of his movement in the lingering solos and impassioned pas de deux enables him powerfully to express his character’s ardour and despair.

Together, the couple find emotion in unexpected places, not in the big duets, but in the party scene, for example. The moment when Des Grieux pours out his disgust and despair at his love’s behaviour has rarely been more powerful. With wonderful support from Gary Avis as a particularly vulpine Monsieur GM and Jos Martin in ferociously sharp form as the conniving Lescaut, this is an evening to relish.

In repertoire until November 26

Sergei Goes To Cuba 2009

Sergei Goes To Cuba 2009

The Royal Ballet in Cuba A Memorable Dance Event

By: Pedro Quiroga Jimenez / Photos by Ismael Francisco and Royal Ballet Archives, on: Theatre & Performing Arts
May 2009
The Royal Ballet in Cuba A Memorable Dance Event

The Cuban public’s expectations were more than satisfied in July with the London Royal Ballet’s five memorable performances notable for choreographic diversity and the long awaited performances by Spanish Tamara Rojo and Cuban Carlos Acosta.

Rojo and Acosta, leading members of the famous British company, treated the audiences to virtuoso performances of the pas de deux of Le Corsaire for three emotional and ovation laden nights at Havana Gran Teatro.

The ensemble’s contemporaneousness shone in Chroma, by choreographer Wayne McGregor, who tests the physical efforts of each dancer in a game that lays bare the theory of knowledge about the human body. The cleanliness in technique and visible expressive force of each of the performers demonstrated the intensity of a spectacle marked by suggestive breaks from the classical line.

The light and pleasing divertimentos harvested another round of applause.

Alina Cojocaru and José Mart in showed their acting talent in the pas de deux, Voices of Spring, in which they effortlessly execute a sense of movement defying gravity, as in a waltz.

Roberta Márquez and Edward Watson performed Romeo and Jul iet’s balcony scene, choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan, who sets Shakespeare’s plot among the top 20th Century classics with the imposing score by Prokofiev.

Another pas de deux, Farewell, allowed Mara Galeazzi’s intense arabesques and Thiago Soares’s leaps and turns to not only express love, but a diatribe against destiny.

Thais, a pas de deux interpreted by Leanne Benjamín and David Makhatel, responded to the musical lyricism that inspired Massenet’s opera, saturated with an ethereal and romantic humour conceived by the late choreographer Frederick Ashton. Ashton’s 1976 A Month in the Country, a free adaptation of Russian novelist Ivan Turgueniev’s play, placed Zenaida Janowsky in the leading role on the Havana stage.

A highlight of the program was the homage paid to Cuba’s Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alicia Alonso by both Cuban and British dancers.

Tamara Rojo, Spanish prima ballerina and Principal Dancer with the Royal Ballet, was precise, secure and demonstrated a technique she owes in great measure to the Cuban school, during her performance with Cuban dancer Joel Carreño in the pas de deux of Act III of Don Quixote.

Cuban National Ballet’s prima ballerina, Viengsay Valdés, roused enthusiasm with her customary balance and fouettes in the pas de deux The Black Swan, accompanied by Brazil ian Thiago Soares.

Johan Kobborg’s choreography of Les Lutins (the musicians) was pleasant and brief performed by Alina Cojocaru, Steven McRae and Sergei Polunin.

To close the season in Cuba, the Royal Ballet performed the dramatic Manon at the Karl Marx Theatre, the largest in the island, seating 5,000. Manon, one of the most enduring titles in its repertoire, debates greed and personal pride, love and disloyalty, morality and resentment.

The Royal Ballet, together with artistic director Dame Monica Mason, returned to England with a feeling common to Cubans: as she said, having shared a moment memorable in every sense.

Something In The Way He Moves

Something In The Way He Moves

Sergei Polunin / Сергей Полунин “Something” in the way he moves.

 

Sergei Polunin is a Ukrainian ballet dancer famous for his “once every hundred years” talent, his incredulous elevation, his impeccable technique, and glorious dramatic range.  He brought an unprecedented new awareness to ballet when he danced in Hozier’s viral video ”Take Me To Church.”  He starred in Diesel’s “Make Love Not Walls” campaign, and is a much sought after model and actor.  He has appeared in such films as Murder On The Orient Express, Dancer (a documentary of his life), White Crow, and Red Sparrow.

Please consider subscribing to my Youtube channel:  https://www.youtube.com/c/PamBoehmeSimon?sub_confirmation=1

and “like” my playlist “Sergei Polunin, Graceful Beast” if you were pleased.

For additional videos and more, visit my fan site at http://sergeipoluningracefulbeast.com

This is a ballet | балет iMovie by Pam Boehme Simon.

Thank you for watching.




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