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1000 Degrees Of Sergei

1000 Degrees Of Sergei

1000 Degrees Of Sergei

As some of you know, I find the relationship between dance and music fascinating.  By simply changing the music, identical steps and choreography take on a completely different nature.  It is so much fun to discover the differences the music can make in the tone, the mood and the overall feel of the piece.  There is a particular video of Sergei Polunin that I love to “play” with.

The video is “100º Celsius,” a ballet by Emil Faski.  It was performed by Sergei and Kristina Shapran during an episode of the “Big Ballet’ or “Bolshoi” television show.  It was a ballet competition show that Sergei entered upon arriving in Russia after leaving the Royal Ballet.

He won.

Here are my adaptations of the video, as well as the original.   Hope you get as much fun out of the “experimentation” as I did.

The Original

My Creations

“Breathless”

“Indigo”

“Moulin Bleu”

“Immersion”

Thank you Sergei, Kristina, and Emil.

 

About this post:

“1000 Degrees of Sergei”

This is a blog entry written by Pam Boehme Simon.  Thank you for reading.

24 Hours With Sergei

24 Hours With Sergei

24 hours with Sergei Polunin

24 hours…

Long days that stretch into the night.  Class, rehearsal, fittings, makeup, performance.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  That is the life of a company dancer.  Follow along.  If you have the energy…

Sergei Polunin / Сергей Полунин “Early Bird / Night Owl”

See behind the scenes at the theater for one day. His day starts early with class and rehearsal, then a performance takes him late into the night. Not much rest for the superstar ballet dancer, Sergei Polunin.

Music: Josh Woodward “Lafayette”

Dancer: The Outtakes

Dancer: The Outtakes

Julie Kavanaugh goes behind the scenes of a documentary recording the life of Sergei Polunin.

By Julie Kavanaugh For Dancing Times, March 2017 issue

 

An idea is born

In September 2012, I was approached by the Dutch documentary director Aliona van der Horst.  She’d read a long article I had written on Sergei Polunin.  Aliona thought the story of the Ukrainian boy burdened with a phenomenal talent would make a moving film.  I knew that terrific archive material existed.  Galina Polunin, Sergei’s mother, had photographed and filmed all the key moments of his childhood.   I knew as well that he would be safe in the hands of the Van der Horst, who is half-Russian and makes poetic, human, award-winning documentaries.

Additionally, it didn’t seem right to make a Polunin documentary that failed to portray the dancer as the extraordinary classicist he is.   His every step is a blueprint of balletic perfection.  A specialist’s eye was needed.  I wrote telling Aliona that I was married to the film dance filmmaker Ross MacGibbon and that we’d decided to take this on ourselves.  While working on a Ralph Fiennes profile, I got to know the Coriolanus producer Gabrielle Tana and we become friends.  Gaby loved ballet, understood Polunin’s importance, and promised to make our documentary idea happen.  Three months later the three of us flew to the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, where Serge was performing, to discuss a shooting schedule.

 

Igor Zelensky stepped up

He was under contract then to the Stanislavsky ballet in Moscow whose director was the charismatic Russian dancer Igor Zelensky, also director of the Novosibirsk’s ballet company and now in charge of Munich’s Bavarian State Ballet where Polunin is a “permanent guest.”  After his dramatic bolt from The Royal Ballet, when the other major companies had shied away from signing up a dancer then regarded as a volatile delinquent Zelensky had stepped in.  “After I left, everything started to close up.” Sergei said, “people started to turn away from me. Igor really helped me get out of this darkness.” 

Zelensky, whose face  Serge has tattooed on his shoulder as a tribute, became a father/brother/mentor figure while his wife and children were his Moscow family.  With his European sophistication combined the Russian machismo and a wild side of his own, Zelensky was a vital role model, instilling in his protégé the importance of self-discipline.  It soon grew into a symbiotic pact with Zelensky creating a Polunin repertory with masterworks by Kenneth McMillan and Fredrick Ashton.  The young dynamo’s presence adding luster and excitement to the Stanislavsky.  In Novosebirsk Zelinsky was able to keep Serge performing and for big money too (one Nutcracker solo earned him more, he told me, than two months pay in The Royal Ballet). 

 

Even in a bad red costume, Sergei looked noble and refined

We watched him the first night in the Gazprom-sponsored gala in Novosibirsk’s “Siberian Coliseum” – the largest theatre in Russia. it was a “Snow Forum” with a blizzard soundtrack, snowflake lighting effects in the auditorium and a performance consisting of winter-themed extracts from musicals, operas, and ballets –  mostly The Nutcracker.   Even in a bad red costume, Sergei looked noble and refined, but was so reined in during his manege by the inept, ponytailed conductor who hardly looked at the stage, that the audience’s slow handclap soon petered out. 

I found myself thinking of a remark Ashton once made when we were talking about why Rudolf Nureyev had chosen The Royal Ballet as his home company:  “A beautiful jewel needs a beautiful setting.”  Because by contrast, the State Academic Opera And Ballet Theater, with its rickety sets and brash lighting appeared as tarnished costume jewelry at best. 

 

A motley lot

Physically and technically, the dancers were motley lot, their mime movements almost comically old school.  “They don’t know how to be natural,” said Sergei, who like Nureyev in his day, was breathing new life into the 19th-century classics.  He was preparing for Giselle while we were there, saying that he’d had to stop the make-up woman from powdering over his brows and painting clownish black arcs in the middle of his forehead. 

Outside in the snow banked-streets the temperature was -24°C, but Sergei virtually lived in the theater, where he and Zelensky had been given backstage apartments.  Igor’s was smart and minimalist.  Sergei’s not much more than a boarding school cell with chipboard cupboards and a bed covered with a garish duvet and strewn clothes.  But he loved Novosibirsk, which was less lonely for him in than Moscow, and we planned to come back and film his cocooned existence with Igor, as well as make good use of the theater’s vast blackened stage.

 

Galina sees Sergei dance professionally for the first time

The following month we shot the first footage in London.   The Royal Ballet was reviving Marguerite and Armand to mark Tamara Rojo’s farewell season with the company and Kevin O’Hare had invited Sergei back to partner her.  This was a huge deal for him. A comeback begging to be recorded, as well as what I saw as the perfect opportunity to carry out a promise I made to his mother.  I’ve already written about my friendship with Galina Polunina, and how I invited her to London to see him for the first time on the Royal Opera House stage. 

That night, sitting beside Galina, as she clutched my arm when the curtain rose, her eyes shining with tears, has to be one of the most memorable ballet-going experiences; but more to the point, it gave us a tremendously powerful scene for the film – one which our cameraman, positioned in the stall circle, and following Galina through the pass door onto the stage, caught in soul-stirring detail.

“I’ve always been scared of contemporary”

In the summer of 2013 Serge was back in London, appearing with the Stanislavsky company in Roland Petit’s Coppelia.  A kitsch, mawkish version which also happens to be an exhilarating showpiece for a male star. Galina came over for it and so did a director/producer acquaintance of Gaby from the US named Steven Cantor.  Tall and rangy, he talked earnestly about the necessity of a Formula and a Journey for the documentary, but had our ear as he was offering to put a large chunk of the budget. 

We now had the funds to commission an eight minute piece by Russell Maliphant, and over a week in August we recorded Sergei working with the choreographer for first-time. “I’ve always been scared of contemporary,” Sergei told me. “For me ballet is so much easier.  It’s unusual for me to go low to the ground – I feeling going to pull everything.”  Even from the first day, however, there was a rapport between the pair, the atmosphere in Maliphant’s north Acton studio almost Zen-like.  

 

Original idea for Dancer focused on artistry

To begin with Sergei was “just trying to copy what Russell’s doing” and having trouble mastering a tricky for swivel but the falls and capoeira-inspired movements came naturally to him, and ini close-ups and wafting his arms beautifully framed his Slavic face.  Maliphant’s idea was to exploit his virtuosity – “the great leaps and turns, those explosive moves.”  – but blend it with other techniques.   “We’ll be dipping into the classical, but I want to play around its edges, and how we go into it and come out of it is something I like to explore.”  

Ross wanted the making a solo to be linking device throughout the film, and planned to shoot the finished piece on location with multiple cameras using time-spliced technique – a freezing of 24 frames a second that would capture and hold the exquisite purity of shapes Polunin makes in space.

 

And then came the tattoos

One August evening we filmed Sergei’s London family, talking to his Royal Ballet School friend Jade Hale-Christofi; his brother Phil, whom Sergei described as a “gang member” but who seemed soft as a kitten; their Greek father and maternal North American mother whose suburban home in been a refuge to surrogate and his most troubled times. 

A few minutes away was the tattoo parlor he’d co-owned with Anthony Lammin, a cool, confident black guy who’d created a number of Sergei’s tattoos.   The latest was to be a replica of a pretty church in Kherson, where Sergei had been “christened.”   To the buzzing of the drill, we filmed Lammin at work on Sergei’s back.  There was a piece of kitchen paper on each thigh to catch the dripping sweat off his armpits, but his dancer pain threshold is so high he could talk to the camera naturally, without a flinch.

 

Nikolai Priadchenko and what might have been

In the autumn of 2013 we traveled to Ukraine to film the backstory.  The trip had been prompted by an invitation for Sergei to perform Giselle in Kiev with the Bolshoi Ballet’s Ukrainian-born star Svetlana Zakharova.  A double comeback this time.  After their press conference he visited Kiev’s ballet academy were he been trained as a child.  He was visibly moved by the “same smells and faces.”  

In Giselle rehearsals he was coached by his first mentor Nikolai Priadchenko, a wirey man with thick gray hair and leathery skin, who’d prepared Serge for his Royal Ballet School audition, taught him variations for European competitions, and passed on the combination of romantic softness and danseur noble imperiousness that defined his own performances as a company star. 

 

“If I had him every day, I’d be on a different level”

Priadchenko had been horrified to hear that Sergei had walked out of The Royal Ballet.  ”It’s not a company to be left.  It was his base” and on camera was visibly shocked when the dancer confessed to hardly ever taking company class.  Among his teachers only Priadchenko,  Sergei said, was “constantly critical,” something he admitted he badly needed.  “I work by myself, I mark things and nobody tells me anything.  So I’m trying in a way to lie to people – pretending I know what I’m doing, but really I don’t.   Nicolai knows that and tells me off in rehearsals.   He wants to correct me show me; show me something new.  I try to hold onto the key moments that I remember, but it’s not the same.  If I had him every day, I’d be on a different level.”  (Sadly for Sergei, Priadchenko died six months later.)

 

Home to Kherson

From Cosmopolitan Kiev we took the overnight train to Kherson.  Kherson seemed a world away especially in its outskirts were Vladimir Polunin lives with his mother.  Sergei’s adoring, pillowy grandmother, who’d got up at 5 AM to make borscht for him, was there along with Galina’s mother, who was strikingly more sophisticated than Vladimír’s.  Vladimir is a gentle, handsome man, who answers difficult questions with touching frankness, as did the two “babushki” sitting side by side.

 

Where it all began

In town we filmed the gymnasium where Sergei trained from the age of six.   His coach was interviewed about the qualities that could’ve made him a professional.  Sergei’s first ballet teacher put on a special display for him.  He was dragged from his seat onto the stage by the pupils.   After improvising to a melancholy Pavarotti aria he spontaneously lifted his teacher off her feet and swung her horizontally round and round. It was a euphoric moment, but there was one more indelible experience left.  

 

The healer

Sergei had suggested we film a session with his healer, a former taxi driver.  His eyes were as glassy as a blind man’s.  He spent about 15 minutes on Sergei, muttering as he rocked him back and forwards, which may or may not have produced a result.  All I know is that it urged Sergei to have a go.   He translated the soft torrent of words spoken by the healer.  I was astounded by accuracy of what I was hearing.  Sergei wasn’t surprised.  Struck with pneumonia as a child he’d been discharged after six weeks in hospital as there was nothing more to be done.  It was Galina’s desperation that first took him to this healer who cured him within a fortnight.

The Dancer outtakes and what might have been

The last day of the shoot, November 20, was Sergei’s birthday.  On the overnight train we had a celebration buffet supper.  We toasted him with plastic cups of warm, sweet, Russian “champagne.”  We did not know it at this time, but this was the end of our collaboration.  Gabby Tana had become enraptured by the work of the photographer and music video maker David LaChapelle.  She decided that she wanted a more commercial film.  In a video of a re-released Freddie Mercury /  Michael Jackson track, LaChapelle dressed Sergei up in combat gear.  He stripped it off while running and leaping over the Hawaiian terrain and into a sunlit white barn. 

This was refined into the now famous Hozier “Take Me To Church” solo, an internet sensation, and today, the centerpiece of the documentary Dancer.  Aimed at the massive YouTube audience, the film has given Sergei the global exposure he craved.  Steven Cantor replaced Ross as director, and in focusing on Polunin’s angst, and not his artistry, Cantor created a portrait of a hugely gifted, mixed-up kid.  Our vision for the documentary, while telling the affecting family story, and filming his movements with innovative expertise, would’ve enshrined forever a great dancer in his prime.


 

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 https://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.

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 https://sergeipoluningracefulbeast.com

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

Thank you for watching.

Sergei and Harry Potter – Dancelines Article 2016

Sergei and Harry Potter – Dancelines Article 2016

Sergei Polunin: His life so far, from his ‘Harry Potter’ world to the celebrity circuit

A bridge connects the Royal Ballet School to the home of the Royal Ballet in London’s Covent Garden.

One day, the students hope, one day.

For most, that day never comes.

For Sergei Polunin the successful crossing from the school to the company came very soon, perhaps too soon.

Already elevated from the first year of the Royal Ballet’s Upper School to the third year, Polunin joined the company itself, became a soloist in 2009 and the following year was promoted to the rank of principal artist when he was only 19.

Eventually he felt trapped, and sometimes bored, within the Royal Opera House, and at the end of January 2012 he walked out of a rehearsal conducted by the former artistic director of the Royal Ballet, Sir Anthony Dowell.

He told Dame Monica Mason, the Royal Ballet’s artistic director at the time, that he was leaving then and there, and never coming back.

She could do nothing to convince him otherwise.

The news of his departure soon spread from the Royal Opera House to the media, and from there, around the dance world.

The ballet community was saddened or upset that such a talented young man could throw everything away although many dancers, choreographers and dance writers already knew that something was seriously wrong as Polunin had been tweeting about his depression, his use of drugs and his very late nights.

After he walked away from the Royal Ballet Polunin found comfort from his friend, Jade Hale-Christofi – his contemporary at the Royal Ballet School – and Jade’s parents who had been supporting him for several years.

Polunin did not look for support from his own family.

He hadn’t seen his parents during all his years at the Royal Ballet School that began when he entered the junior school in 2003, aged 13.

Polunin’s volatile early life is told in the 2016 documentary, Dancer, one of five films that have been selected by The Producers Guild of America as nominees for the top feature film documentary of the year.

The documentary winner will be announced at the end of January.

At the heart of Dancer is the 2015 YouTube sensation in which Polunin danced a solo, choreographed by Jade, to Hozier’s Take Me to Church.

His ripped, flesh coloured tights and the tattoos displayed over his chest and arms added to the powerful impact of Polunin’s performance.

Dancer, begins with footage from Polunin’s home city, Kherson, in Ukraine.

The grainy grey images of the city are in stark contrast with the later glamour of the dancer’s life at the Royal Ballet.

Images and footage from Polunin’s early life are the most impressive elements of Dancer.

As a young boy he was a prize winning athlete, as flexible as the young Sylvie Guillem whose career also began as a child athlete.

In 1997, when Polunin was 8 years old, he moved with his mother, Galina, to Kiev, where he began his ballet training.

Galina was proud of her son, filming him at every opportunity with a home video recorder.

But from 2003 he had no family to support him.

Polunin spent his early days at the Royal Ballet School as an outsider.

He spoke little English, and was initially adrift as a boarder in White Lodge, the school’s home, a Georgian building place that was once a royal lodge.

In the documentary, Polunin describes how lost he felt in White Lodge, a place that for him was “a Harry Potter world”.

After his first year at the school, when his parents divorced, Polunin acknowledges that he was “angry with my Mum” and, as Jade Hale-Christofi says in the documentary, Polunin “became separate from the family”.

I first saw him dance, in 2004, at the Royal Ballet School’s Summer Fair at White Lodge, an annual event where the students perform for family and friends in the gardens and inside the building.

Polunin danced in The Sleeping Beauty pas de trois.

His technique was impeccable although he looked as if he would rather be almost anywhere else.

A few years later I saw him again, this time on the stage of the Royal Opera House in Frederick Ashton’s Rhapsody.

The blank look had, of course, gone. His performance was electric and his line was the epitome of classical perfection.

Although we see that perfection again in Dancer’s scenes from Giselle, La Bayadere and Spartacus, the documentary more often focuses on his pain, both physical and mental, as he struggles with life as a professional dancer at the Royal Ballet, a place that for him was a gilded cage.

The documentary takes an unfortunate turn when it swerves into the genre known in the book trade as a misery memoir.

His parents recall how difficult life was for them, how little money they had, and how his mother struggled in vain to get a visa to visit the UK and see her son.

The film ends with orchestrated “happy ever after” moments when the extended family reunites to see Polunin perform.

We see Mum and Dad sitting in the audience of a theatre watching their son with all the joy of Billy Elliott’s Dad, the man who scoffed at the idea of ballet but had tears in his eyes when Billy jumped onto the stage in Matthew Bourne’s interpretation of Swan Lake.

Until recently, Polunin has been supported by father figures, such as the dancers, Ivan Putrov and Igor Zelensky.

He now he has the support of his partner, the ballerina, Natalia Osipova, and with that, appears to have more confidence and security than he has had in his life so far.

This year the couple put together ‘Natalia Osipova & Guests’, a show that opened at Sadlers Wells in London and has since travelled to the Edinburgh Festival, New York and Athens and will tour to Auckland in March.

The idea seems to have sprung from Sylvie Guillem’s post-ballet initiative of commissioning contemporary choreographers and assembling small groups of dancers as a way of continuing her dance career.

But, judging from the London and New York reviews of the Osipova/Polunin show, the couple will need to commission more compelling choreography than they’ve chosen so far.

Meanwhile, Polunin is following Guillem in another way.

Once she was the reclusive ‘Mademoiselle No’ (the dancer who had her own way and no other way), who refused to be photographed and seldom gave interviews.

That all ended when she emarked on international tours with her own groups or partners such as Akram Khan and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.

Once, Polunin was also reclusive, “the bad boy” of ballet, searching for his own way, not the company way, and he was not known as friendly to the media.

Now, as a freelancer with the Take Me to Church YouTube sensation and documentary as his calling cards, he’s giving interviews wherever he can.

 

When the flurry of publicity calms down, let’s hope he will continue his career in ballet, choosing his roles the way he wants, but without the angst of before.

If You Fall, I Will Catch You

If You Fall, I Will Catch You

“If You Fall, I Will Catch You” Sergei & Natalia.  They are ballet superstars and real life companions.  The two met in Milan in 2015 when Sergei stepped in for an injured partner.  While performing “Giselle” they fell in love.  The pair have been close ever since.

Choreography: “Silent Echo” by Russell Maliphant

Alternative Music: “Hachiko” by The Kyoto Connection with permission under license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/

 

If you fall, I’ve got your back…

The pair support each other as friends and professionals.  Sergei Polunin & Natalia Osipova are there for each other.  Literally and figuratively.  Onstage and off.   Out and about, attending events, bouncing ideas around at rehearsals, joining in on performances.  The stunning couple have a special bond without a doubt.

 

I you fall sergei polunin natalia osipova kiss
Sergei & Natalia

 

If you fall sergei polunin natalia osipova
Sergei & Natalia

Who Is Sergei?

Sergei Polunin is a Ukrainian ballet dancer.  Famous for his “once every hundred years” talent, he has incredulous elevation and impeccable technique.  From an early age, he displayed glorious dramatic range.  Home video of him as a tiny boy improving to Pavarotti are very foretelling.

Ballet gained an unprecedented new awareness when he danced in Hozier’s viral video ”Take Me To Church.”  People who never would have never paid any attention to ballet began to watch.  He is generally attributed with bringing ballet to the modern common man.  Classical, yet cutting edge, Sergei starred in Diesel’s “Make Love Not Walls” campaign and has put his mark on many other promotions.

Sergei is a much sought after model and actor. Fashion designers love his breathtaking physique and brooding good looks.  He has garnered only positive reviews for his acting.  His appearances include Murder On The Orient Express, Dancer, White Crow, and Red Sparrow.

 

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