Sergei Plays Yuri Soloviev In White Crow | Sergei Polunin
Sergei Plays Yuri Soloviev In White Crow

Sergei Plays Yuri Soloviev In White Crow

In the upcoming biopic “White Crow” Sergei Polunin has been cast as Yuri Soloviev.  The Ralph Fiennes film is based on the defection chapter of legendary ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev’s life.  At first, I thought Sergei should play Nureyev.  The physique, the brooding good looks… it seemed like a given.  However, the more I learn about Soloviev, the casting makes more and more sense.

sergei plays yuri soloviev
Rudolf Nureyev

Nureyev’s defection left Soloviev the company’s star

Yuri Soloviev, born in Leningrad in 1940, was in the same class as Nureyev at the famed Vaganova ballet academy.  Soloviev graduated straight into the Kirov (Mariinsky today) ballet company.  In 1961, Soloviev made his debut in the West, first in Paris, then in London and New York.  It was during the Paris engagement that his colleague, Rudolf Nureyev, defected.  Soloviev carried the season on alone as the new male dance superstar.

sergei plays yuri solovkiev
Gabriela Komleva and Yuri Soloviev in “The Leningrad Symphony”

Of his first performances in New York, Walter Terry of The New York Herald Tribune wrote: “His appearances were nothing short of sensational and audiences were invariably screaming bravos.”  Audiences continued screaming bravos through most of his career.  He was brilliant in great classic roles.

sergei plays yuri soloviev
Yuri Soloviev

Soloviev introduced western audiences to the “double assemble”

In the ballet “The Stone Flower” he whirled round the stage in a step that at the time was virtually new to the West.  The double assemblé seemed humanly impossible to its new audience.  A double assemblé is when the dancer runs, leaps from one leg into the air, assembles (hence the name) his legs tightly together, spins around twice, and lands in a tidy fifth position.  For the record, Sergei has been popping these off since he was a kid in class at the Royal Ballet School.

sergei plays yuri soloviev
‘Yuri Soloviev and Alla Osipenko in “The Stone Flower”

Facially, Soloviev was a very good looking man.  His physique was another matter and here is where the comparisons to Sergei meet a fork in the road.  As described by one reviewer, Soloviev had a “large and even difficult body.”  It was a shape one would have not expected for grace.  The same reporter wrote that “he was a poet who looked like a transmogrified truck driver.”

Soloviev had ups too

Rejoining the Sergei path, one thing that made Soloviev a truly great dancer was his awareness of gravity… or the lack thereof.  Much like Sergei, he “moved into the air like a bird and grinned at the top of his jump” to again quote the aforementioned reporter.  He had the most remarkable elevation of any dancer of his generation.  More than the sheer height of these flights, they were combined with a softness, clarity, and ballon.  His airborne abilities led to his nickname of “Cosmic Yuri,” a nod to Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

sergei plays yuri soloviev
Yuri Soloviev

There seemed to be no technical difficulty he was unable to master completely.  And, again, much like Sergei, Soloviev was a sensitive and gifted actor, a master of understatement and taste.  As Albrecht in “Giselle,” he played the role with a beautiful desperate passion, yet was completely believable as the shy and handsome prince in “The Sleeping Beauty.”

So, as much as I originally wished to see Sergei portray Rudolf Nureyev, it seems Ralph Fiennes may have gotten it right to cast him as “Cosmic Yuri.”   We shall see.

– Pam Boehme Simon

One Reply to “Sergei Plays Yuri Soloviev In White Crow”

  1. THANK you, Pam. Good article and I agree that Part of Soloviev is much better for Polunin.Their talants are incomparable to uthers balett stars.I believe that Soloviev was much technically better than Nuriev but did not have Nuriev,s EGO and strength to go through difficulties of artist life. And Polunin is much more elegant, excelent in creating image of hero he potrtrais, he has many more of perfections than great Nuriev. I pray a lot and ask his destiny to give him more spiritual strength, good health and really good friends to achieve his dreams.

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