GQ Maverick of the Year Article 2017 – Sergei Polunin
GQ Maverick of the Year Article 2017

GQ Maverick of the Year Article 2017

The bad boy of ballet: ‘No one in the dance world wants to hire me’

He twisted and turned on his route to the top, but the bad boy of ballet, Sergei Polunin, is only just getting going

  • October 5, 2017
Photo Credit: DOUG INGLISH
Styling by Sean Knight. Shirt, £595. Scarf, £235. Both by Alexander McQueen. Tights by Capezio, £25.

In 2012, Sergei Polunin, perhaps the most gifted ballerino of his generation, bolted from The Royal Ballet two years after making history, aged 20, as the company’s youngest principal dancer. He was sick of 12-hour days and bad pay. He covered himself in tattoos – one reads “death” – spoke openly about his habit of taking cocaine on stage and tweeted asking for heroin. He was – bet you didn’t see this one coming – nicknamed “the bad boy of ballet”.

Three years later, GQ‘s Creative Maverick Of The Year decided to dance for the last time. “I couldn’t wait to stop,” he says. Polunin flew to Hawaii with director David LaChapelle to film his adieu over three weeks. On the first day, Polunin danced for nine hours and then boarded a plane back to Moscow. “In the middle of rehearsal, I realised I couldn’t quit,” he says. “My urge to dance was so strong; I had to leave and dance immediately.” The video, which Polunin describes as “a fight between two selves”, performed to Hozier’s “Take Me To Church”, has 21 million views on YouTube.

The video propelled Polunin to global fame and, this year, became the centrepiece of a documentary, Dancer, about his struggle. This nudged Polunin, now 27, into Hollywood’s eye line. Cue dance-led roles in Kenneth Branagh’s Murder On The Orient Express, Ralph Fiennes’ The White Crow and Red Sparrow with Jennifer Lawrence. On the side is Project Polunin, an art-meets-ballet venture. “No one in the dance world wants to hire me,” says Polunin. “Yet I’m not hurting anyone – I am trying to help society. People think I’m bad because I’m different.”

They say bad boy, we say… Creative Maverick.

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