Dream Becomes A Nightmare, Polunin Quits Royal Ballet – Sergei Polunin
Dream Becomes A Nightmare, Polunin Quits Royal Ballet

Dream Becomes A Nightmare, Polunin Quits Royal Ballet

The Dream becomes a nightmare: Royal Ballet’s youngest ever Principal quits a week ahead of show


The youngest male dancer ever to be made a principal with the Royal Ballet, abruptly quit the company.

Ukrainian Sergei Polunin, still only 21, rose rapidly through ranks within two years of joining the Royal Ballet from the Royal Ballet School and was promoted to top rank in 2010 aged only 19.

The sudden departure of the man labeled ‘Covent Garden’s most remarkable male discovery for years’ has shocked observers.

dream becomes nightmare
Resigned: Sergei Polunin, 21, makes his first appearance on stage after resigning from the Royal Ballet earlier this week

dream becomes nightmare
Statement: Monica Mason, director of the Royal Ballet

Dame Monica Mason, the director of the Royal Ballet, said in a press statement:

‘This has obviously come as a huge shock. Sergei is a wonderful dancer, and I have enjoyed watching him tremendously, both on stage and in the studio, over the past few years. I wish him every success in the future.’

A source at the Royal Opera House, where he had been due to star in The Dream, added:

‘This is a total bolt out of the blue. Sergei was rehearsing right up until today. We are upset, but more than anything we are shocked.  He has never suggested that he was unhappy. Today he spoke to Monica Mason and simply said that he wanted to resign.  He just said he didn’t want to dance here any more.’

Polunin had given no indication in rehearsals that anything was amiss.

This week the dancer wrote on his Twitter page: ‘Just have to go through one night!!! then will make my next moves.’

In recent interviews the young star has indicated that he wants to do more dancing around the world and has been feeling constricted by his London timetable.

He has said that world galas are where the money is – and has also revealed that he is both tattooed and the co-owner of a tattoo parlour.

He was also due to dance two full-length ballets with the rising British ballet star Lauren Cuthbertson, as Romeo and the Jack of Hearts in a production of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

He also had leadroles scheduled in all the remaining programmes of the season, notably La Sylphide with Sarah Lamb and a much-anticipated debut with Cojocaru in Ashton’s delicate Russian tragedy A Month in the Country.

dream becomes nightmare
Shock: Sergei Polunin announced his resignation from the Royal Ballet Company this week

dream becomes nightmare
Prodigy: After a recent performance of Ashton’s Rhapsody The Arts Desk’s critic Judith Flanders wrote that he might be even better than Baryshnikov, for whom the ballet was created

Born into a poor family in Kherson, Ukraine, Polunin joined the Royal Ballet School at the age of 13, sponsored by the Nureyev Foundation.

A talented gymnast who originally dreamed of entering the Olympics, he swiftly proved to be outstanding in ballet and joined the Royal Ballet at only 17.

‘Attending the Royal Ballet School was a big escape for me,’ he said in The Telegraph.

‘I didn’t miss home at all. In Kiev I shared a room with my mum for four years; suddenly I was in a dorm with six other boys at White Lodge in Richmond Park – I felt like I was in Harry Potter.’

All the top roles have been laid at his feet by Dame Monica, but it was evidently not enough to retain his interest.

dream becomes nightmare
Mystery departure: Sergei Polunin with Laura Morera at the Royal Ballet Triple Rhapsody at The Royal Opera House Covent Garden

His departure will be a bitter pill to swallow for the Dame, since this is her farewell season as director, and Polunin was probably the biggest new star discovered in her era.

This Friday Polunin joins another Royal Ballet rebel, Ivan Putrov, in an evening featuring male ballet at Sadler’s Wells.

Putrov, 31, a fellow Ukrainian, who was also considered a leading stylist, left the Royal Ballet in 2010 and hooked up with the controversial modern choreographer Javier de Frutos and the Pet Shop Boys for an ambitious Sadler’s Wells creation, The Most Incredible Thing, last year.

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