ballet class – Sergei Polunin

Tag: ballet class

Royal Ballet School Annual Report 2007-2008

Royal Ballet School Annual Report 2007-2008

Came across this interesting little downloadable file… it is the Royal Ballet School’s Annual Report for the Academic Year 2007-2008. It mentions our boy and there are many wonderful photos of the school and grounds where Sergei spent so much time growing up and honing his art.  It is also when and where he earned the nickname “Graceful Beast” from a fellow classmate.


The Independent Culture, an article from November 2011

The Independent Culture, an article from November 2011

Sergei Polunin: One giant leap for British ballet

Sergei Polunin makes his debut in Manon. The Ukrainian also explains how he combines dance stardom with plans to open a celebrity tattoo parlour.

By Jessica Duchen

Tuesday 8 November 2011 00:00 GMT

He’s 21, he’s been called “better than Baryshnikov” and he has tiger scratches tattooed into his torso. Sergei Polunin, the youngest star of the Royal Ballet, makes his debut tonight as Des Grieux in MacMillan’s Manon. His extraordinary roller-coaster of a story, from rags to incipient riches, as told to me a couple of weeks ago by the lad himself, is in today’s Independent.

He’s rather lovely – intelligent and self-aware, under that youthful bravado – and I couldn’t help teasing him a little when he started talking about how he envies the street life of his former school friend back in Kherson, Ukraine, whom he encountered “walking around in a gang, looking cool”. I asked where he lives and he named a reasonably rough bit of north London. Plenty of gangs there, I said. I’m sure they’d have you, what with the tattoos and all. Fortunately he recognises that he can’t risk breaking a leg. Still, he’s already seen more of real life in his 21 short years than many of ballet (and music)’s practitioners will experience in twice that.

Stage lights, says Sergei Polunin, can conceal as much as they illuminate. Perhaps it’s just as well, because among this youthful Ukrainian’s ventures into body art beyond ballet is a simulation of tiger scratches on his torso. “Nobody really noticed my tattoos,” he remarks. “I put Sellotape or pancake make-up over them, but you’d be surprised how much you can’t see when the lights hit.”

What you can see of Polunin, the Royal Ballet’s youngest principal dancer, is mightily impressive. Long-limbed, with a radiant openness about his upper body, a spacious musicality and an apparently weightless, stratospheric jump, at only 21 he’s a persuasive candidate to be British ballet’s biggest hope. One bedazzled critic, reviewing him in Rhapsody earlier this year, even declared him “better than Baryshnikov” – praise indeed.

This season is packed with vital landmarks and debuts for him: tonight, he makes his debut in Manon as Des Grieux, the luxury-seeking heroine’s unfortunate lover. Soon there’s his first Romeo in Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet and an international cinecast of The Sleeping Beauty in which he is the Prince.

Polunin looks like a young man in a hurry, but in fact he is lucky to be alive. Aged eight, he contracted pneumonia; one of his lungs stopped working and the local hospital sent him home still ill after six weeks. The condition lasted a year. “My mum tried everything,” Polunin remembers. “Eventually, I ended up seeing this guy who heals with his hands.” After 10 sessions, by hook, crook or miracle, he was better.

He was born in Kherson, close to the Black Sea in Ukraine, where initially he joined a sports school to learn gymnastics. Pneumonia ended that: “I couldn’t come back to gymnastics because the floors were too dusty for my health.” The alternative was ballet. “Some of my friends were going to dancing school and, when one of them was auditioning for a ballet school in Kiev, my mother saw an opportunity for me to do that, so we could move to a bigger, better city.

“I’d always been one of the best in my gymnastics school, so I transferred to trying to be the best dancer, without knowing anything about ballet. I learned it as a routine. And even in Kherson, which had nothing like a ballet company, they respected dancers. It was so rare for a boy to be a dancer that everyone was impressed, even street kids.”

Kherson, he adds, was desperately poor: “Everyone was living in the same poverty and there was no hot water or electricity after 6pm. I had pocket money for good marks, but at some point I had to give it away for food. We moved to Kiev with $10 in my mum’s pocket; that was all. My dad went to work as a builder in Portugal and my grandmother went to Greece to support my mum and me.” He and his mother lived in one room for four years in Kiev.

Next Sergei auditioned for the Vaganova Academy in St Petersburg. It wasn’t for him, nor he for it. “They were quite excited when they saw me dance but when they heard I was Ukrainian, not Russian, they backed off,” he says. He speculates that this might be due to the school’s funding set-up. “Besides, the whole city felt wrong for me. It was very cold and, in St Petersburg general, schooling is more important than dancing. I hated school.” He is dyslexic, he says: “Homework was torture.”

Now his mother suggested London and the Royal Ballet School. His father called an acquaintance in the UK who told them how to apply. Sergei was soon invited to audition but when the letter of acceptance arrived, it was in English and they could not understand it. “We thought it said we would have to pay £32,000 a year in fees, so we decided to forget the whole thing.”

If his ballet teacher’s dog had not played with another dog during a walk soon afterwards, he might not be here now. The two dog owners talked and became friends. “This friend knew English, looked at our letter and said: ‘no, you need a sponsor, but you don’t need to pay anything yourself’.” The same friend put the Polunins in touch with UK contacts to help find Sergei sponsorship from the Nureyev Foundation.

Aged 13, he arrived at the Royal Ballet’s junior school, White Lodge, in Richmond Park. “I’d read the Harry Potter books,” he laughs, “and it felt just like that!” His fate seemed assured when he won the prestigious Prix de Lausanne in 2006; and at last he entered the Royal Ballet itself, having graduated from its school two years ahead of his age group.

Now he’s relishing the high demands of his biggest season so far. Des Grieux is a big challenge, he adds, for peculiar reasons: “I like strong characters, big steps and jumps. This role is a weak character, he’s insecure and it’s all adagio! It’s very pure. I think my dancing comes over as a bit wild, even if I’m thinking ‘pure’. The challenge is to make him interesting, without putting across the wrong type of character.”

His Manon is Lauren Cuthbertson; together they created the leading roles in Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland earlier this year and their partnership has attracted much enthusiasm. “I think our lines complement each other – we both look quite long,” Polunin suggests. “And she’s very spontaneous, which makes it exciting to dance with her.”

Nevertheless, there’s a sense that Polunin is champing at the bit. He’s had invitations to make guest appearances with American Ballet Theatre and in Russia, and wasn’t pleased to find that his Royal Ballet duties would not allow him to go. But he managed some moonlighting closer to home: last month he danced in The Phantom of the Opera when it was cinecast to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

His dream roles, he says, are “manly” characters that require immense drama; long-term, he has his eye on two MacMillan masterpieces, Mayerling’s crazed Prince Rudolf, and the dark and devastating The Judas Tree. But he loves dancing Albrecht in Giselle: “The second act is so cleverly choreographed that when you’re supposed to be at the point of death, you feel you really are.”

He’s hungry for life and experience. “I’m not good!” he declares. “I don’t do many classes. Sometimes I don’t eat all day, then have four meals between 8pm and 4am. I go to bed really late – if I just sleep I won’t have a life outside ballet. And I have this idea to open a tattoo place. I’d like to create something classy, with open windows, maybe some celebrities coming in…” He is not joking. “It’ll be 50-50 with this American guy who’s a former gangster and learned tattooing in jail. I’m fascinated by that life. Once I went back to my old city and saw my best friend from childhood walking around with a gang, looking cool. I think I missed out by never having that street life doing stupid things.”

There’s another tattoo on his lower back, he says, in glass letters: “It represents my memories being washed away by rain.” His parents broke up when he was 14. “I was very upset,” he says. “After that I decided I was never going to think about anything bad again.”

His life is literally inked into his body. Perhaps it is inked likewise into the power of his dancing.

Sergei Polunin dances Des Grieux in ‘Manon’ on 8 and 15 November, Royal Opera House (020 7304 4000)

“London boys ballet school reports huge rise in numbers” An Evening Standard Article

“London boys ballet school reports huge rise in numbers” An Evening Standard Article

London boys ballet school reports huge rise in pupil numbers!

Boys are no longer embarrassed by ballet, with applicants being inspired by “Strictly Come Dancing” and Sergei Polunin.

Evening Standard Arts In Association With LIZZIE EDMONDS
Friday, 27 January 2017

The head of a London ballet school for boys has reported a huge rise in pupil numbers, with many applicants inspired by television show “Strictly Come Dancing.”

James Cunliffe, founder and director of The London Boys Ballet School, said boys were no longer embarrassed to like ballet.

He credited professionals, such as Sergei Polunin, the Ukrainian former principal dancer at the Royal Ballet, and television shows, such as Strictly, with helping to “encourage more boys to dance”. This year the BBC1 show was won by TV presenter Ore Oduba.

Mr Cunliffe said his school, which trains boys aged between four and 18 in ballet, jazz and contemporary dance, had only 15 registered pupils when it opened in September 2014. It now has “in excess of 170 pupils”.

He added: “There have always been boys that have wanted to dance. I wanted to dance for many years but didn’t because I was too embarrassed. There was a stigma attached to it, that ballet was all pink and tutus and just for girls.

“It was also embarrassing to go to a dance class and be the only boy. That has changed now. Boys are no longer embarrassed to like dance. I do think dancers such as Sergei and TV programmes such as Strictly have helped encourage more boys to dance. It’s great to see so much more dance now covered in national television programmes.”

He said the popularity of his school would create a snowball effect, encouraging even more boys to start dancing. “When we first started there were a handful of pupils and they would come and go,” he said. “Now there are hundreds and the boys are like a collective. There is that camaraderie and they know they are not the only ones who like to dance.”

Pupils at the school study internationally recognised examinations set by the Royal Academy of Dance. In 2016 the school received the dance school of the year innovation award.

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i-D Magazine Shoot & Interview 2013

i-D Magazine Shoot & Interview 2013

Sergei Polunin for i-D Magazine

Intense, charismatic and wildly talented, Sergei Polunin is covered in tattoos, can party like the best of us, and is changing the shape of ballet as we know it.

Sergei Polunin is not your typical prim and proper, principal ballet dancer.

It’s midnight in Moscow when we speak to him and he’s just finished performing his lead role in the premiere of La Bayadère, a dramatic ballet about love, jealousy, noble warriors and cruel princesses, but he’s about to dance to a different tune, as he gets ready to hit the strip. “I’m a night person, I like night more than day,” he explains, in a seductive Ukrainian drawl, after telling us his usual bedtime is 6am. You’ve probably seen his name in the paper recently, along with the phrase “ballet’s bad boy” and a picture of a skinny but muscular, half naked man with scarification on his chest.

Youngest ever principal dancer at the age of 19.

The 23-year-old earned his tabloid headline when he dropped out of The Royal Ballet School less than two years after becoming its youngest ever principal dancer at the age of 19; he disappeared just days before the opening night of his London Coliseum show, Midnight Express, and was totally open about dancing on stage while high on cocaine. But, as only the incredibly beautiful and incredibly talented do, he got away with it; the world of showbiz “blasé’d” over those “tombé’s” and welcomed him back.

Sergei is a dark and brooding mix of beauty, adrenaline, rebelliousness and nonchalance.

Now he’s part of the Stanislavsky Moscow Music Theatre; his mentor is the Stanislavsky Ballet’s director, Igor Zelensky, and every dancer in the world wants his role. Known for having a strange ambivalence towards the art form he has dedicated his life to so far, Sergei is a dark and brooding mix of beauty, adrenaline, rebelliousness and nonchalance, who has fascinated and enchanted not only the dance stratosphere but the mainstream press and the fashion world too.

Q:  What do you do for fun, when you’re not working?
Drinking! Drinking and smoking, like normal people. Going to restaurants, having a cigarette, having a drink. I spend a lot of time with Igor Zelensky. He’s like a father figure, you know. He’s lived through everything and he knows what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s nice to have a person you can trust.

Q:  Does Igor go out drinking with you?
Not so much, he tells me what’s right, I’m the one who goes a bit crazy!

Q:  Have you ever gone to work hung over?
If I don’t want to, I just don’t go in. It’s my choice and my director understands me, so it’s great. I try to practise as little as possible because it’s kind of a waste of time if you’re a professional already. Sometimes I only do one rehearsal before the ballet and I’m ready to go. It’s a bit unusual because in London, for example, you rehearse for a month, but here in Russia it’s much quicker and the result is the same. For La Bayadère the whole company was doing it for probably two months, rehearsing hard. I just did it for a week and it was a big success. I like spontaneity in the performance, so I don’t over-rehearse it. I like little surprises. It keeps me interested in the ballet. You give everything to the audience, but you need to keep yourself interested as well because if you don’t like what you’re doing, then it’s hard to keep going.

Q:  Do you ever get nervous?
Not anymore. I try to enjoy the show now. You have to live your role, you have to get over it and carry on. It’s your life and you have to enjoy it. That way you don’t get nervous about steps, you’re just living the character.

Q:  You mentioned before that you wanted fame because it opens doors. What would you want to do with your fame?
I don’t really like my own dancing, so it’s very hard for me to stay interested in something I don’t really like myself in. I can’t watch myself in anything.Film is definitely interesting, but I don’t believe in myself [enough] for that. I do get offers and maybe I will get there, but you need to have faith, you need to like yourself doing it. There are so many different things you can do in life; life is interesting in general. Even going into the army… I think that’s what men should do, that’s how it used to be. But then you have to think, “What will I miss out on if I go there?” While you’re young, try a lot. You have to do as many things in life as possible. When you get older you start to get scared of things, you know, you get a family and you start to think more. When you’re young everything is open for you.

Q:  The fashion world has sort of taken you in, is that something you’re interested in?
It’s definitely a different world, it’s interesting, but you need to have another job. I don’t think it’s a man’s job to do just that. You have to be somebody and then do that on the side. I don’t think it’s a man’s job to just be pretty! I like it when it’s a boxer doing fashion, or a footballer, you have to be somebody. A lot of people wouldn’t agree with me, but that’s what I think.

Q:  This is The Collectors Issue of i-D, do you collect anything?
Girls! I’m joking. What else do you collect as a man?!

Q:  Have you ever broken anyone’s heart?
No, I take care of people and I love people.

Q:  Has a girl ever broken your heart?
Yes. In London I was with a really nice girl from my company. You know, you get used to the person… I had to leave London. I did love her.

Q:  Do you use that experience when you dance?
Yes, definitely. I think it’s very important to use your experiences and it definitely shows on stage, one hundred percent. You imagine different people and it brings different feelings out, so it’s important to have as many experiences as possible and then show them to the audience. Giselle was one of the first ballets where I used those feelings. [When you] break up with a girl, for you it’s like she’s dying, and when she’s dying during the ballet, it really helps you to show the right feelings. It probably takes two or three days to get over the emotional bit of ballet.

Q:  Do you think it’s easier to dance light-hearted ballets like Coppélia?
I hate happy ballets! I hate showing happiness in ballet. I think it’s very stupid. I like more emotional, sad, maybe evil characters, but definitely not happy ones. I mean it’s a positive energy coming out of me, but it doesn’t have to be happy ballet.

Q:  If you could dance with any girl in the world, who would you choose?
Madonna! She’s interesting… I’m joking, I don’t know. I’ve never met her.

Q:  Do you collect anything else?
Yeah, I collect tattoos, I’ve got probably fifteen or sixteen. The one with the tiger scratches on my chest was the first one. I had the tattoo and it wasn’t very good, so I had to cut a little bit of colour off, so it became half scratches, half tattoo. It’s like scarring, you just cut it off.

Q:  Was it painful?
No, not really.

Q:  What’s your favourite one?
Probably Igor’s face on my shoulder!

Q:  What was his reaction to that?
He didn’t say anything…

Q:  Are you happier now?
Yes, everything’s going well. I love Russia. As long as I have Igor Zelensky by my side everything is going well!


Prior to landing his first campaign as the face of Marc Jacobs Menswear FW14, Sergei Polunin was shot by Sølve Sundsbø for the winter 2013 issue of i-D Magazine.

The ballet star won notoriety in 2012 after disappearing from The Royal Ballet School just days before the opening night of his London show. Sergei has since go on to dance with The Stanislavsky Music Theatre and Novosibirsk State Academic Opera in Russia.

In the profile for i-D, when asked about modelling, Sergei said “It’s definitely a different world, it’s interesting, but you need to have another job. I don’t think it’s a man’s job to do just that. You have to be somebody and then do that on the side. I don’t think it’s a man’s job to just be pretty!”



We Have Been Given A Treasure, Thank You Tatyana!

We Have Been Given A Treasure, Thank You Tatyana!

I would like to thanks Tatyana Kaya for helping answer a question so many Sergei Polunin fans have had for ages now.  He mentions often that he does not take class with other dancers.  He prefers to do a typical Russian ballet barre and center himself, every day.  Alone in his solitude, using classical music, rap, or nothing at all.  As dancers, dance teachers, and fans, we have wondered what exactly this class consisted of, and now, thanks to Tatyana, we have a much better understanding.

Here is the video in question, and I shall include Tatyana’s translation below.  Enjoy!!!


“To tell you the truth, they (exercises) are always boring. So, you take 4 moves forward, 4 moves aside and 4 moves back, and the same things on another side. Then sit in plié, but try to be firm to avoid over-extention. If you get injured by over-extention at class, your audience won’t see you then (laughs). Take care of yourself! So you sit in plié, then on another side (he moves), then you move your leg a bit higher. I do it like “cross type”. And repeat on another side. And ‘rond des jambes’ is the most difficult because here you should throw your leg higher without toughening them.

Then I do this type of stretching and if I do this, then I’m ready to perform. Then ‘fondu’ – forward, aside and back, and turn to another side. I want to note that there is no need to strictly follow ballet body positions – the way classic dancers do, because it clamps you. If you just exercise, you are already an alive human being. Music (rock or rap) also helps you to unleash yourself. So you should show not hide yourself on the stage, but many people clamp themselves unfortunately. I mix classical (as I’m good at it) with artistic and many other styles, just the way I want it.

Also ‘rond des jambes’, just to tell you, is always a problem for me, and I don’t know why. I can never bend my back behind I don’t know why. All the ballet dancers can bend back and I always do ‘adagio’ like this (he shows). And when teachers come they are always shocked when they see me at class because it’s all wrong. (He speaks ironically:)

I always finish my classes with ‘grand bâttement’ – when you throw your legs forward, aside and back. And now the most difficult part begins because you are a bit tired already but you are to complete your class. And you start doing the same things just with one leg – small ‘tendu’, then a bit higher, adagio – the simplest one, just to warm up your body. And ‘grand bâttement.

I never practise ‘pirouettes’, because I’m not into them, so I always have some difficulties on the stage (ironical cutie he is!), so I never try them. Then small jumps, this way (he shows), and aside, and take a 40 second pause, then go on jumping. Take a pause and jump ‘assemblée’ forward and back, then ‘jeté’ which is a must. After jeté I can dance. I never take high jumps because the body isn’t warmed up yet, but the shower always helps. If you take a hot shower after such ‘hot rock’ (he means an intensive class), then your body “activates”. So you couldn’t do anything, but then you took shower and…well, this is my usual day. – How much time does the class usually take you? – Well about an hour.”

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