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Parties, Tattoos, Depression, Dance.

Parties, Tattoos, Depression, Dance.

Parties, tattoos, depression, dance: the film “Dancer” about Sergei Polunin

Text:  NASTYA POLETAEVA for Blueprint

May 18, 2016

Sergei Polunin, compared with Baryshnikov, called the new Nureyev, and on the impact on the fans, he can compete with Louis Garrel.  Today the film company “Pioneer” releases a tape “Dancer”, telling the story of the pop star of ballet.  We watched the movie and recommend it for viewing, regardless of your thoughts on its subject.

 

The documentary film “Dancer” is about the life of the ballet prodigy Sergei Polunin.  Here in Russia, ballet is very revered – perhaps even more so than in the UK, where Polunin became a star.  The “rock prince of the ballet” formulations are not applicable to the audience here (in Russia), and quotes from the interview with Sergei saying “classical ballet is dead” rather irritate us.

parties tattoos depression dance
Photo: RICK GUEST

 

Inner drama

After the movie “Dancer” we questioned “Why is Polunin so popular?”  He is an ideal Lermontov hero.  His childhood was spent in Kherson.  He studied in the Kiev ballet school, where for the sake of payment, his father Sergei had to go to Portugal and work there at the construction site.  His grandmother moved to Greece, where she was a nurse.  Viewing a tape of him at the Royal Academy of Ballet in London resulted in Polunin getting a grant.  He worked hard, even staying after classes were dismissed.  He hoped to meet expectations and reunite the family, however his parents’ relationship finally succumbed to divorce.  Admission to the Royal Ballet troupe as principal dancer at age 19 only led to nervous breakdowns, parties, tattoos, and depression.  Upon leaving the theater, Polunin took on advertising contracts, bought a tattoo parlor, and achieved fame as the “enfant terrible.”  It’s hard to believe that this cinematic story is a chronicle of just 22 years of a real person’s life.  Complex character in combination with charisma, choreographic gift, and physical beauty interested the ballet community and the press.  And, participation in the viral Hozier clip created Sergei fanatics and fans all over the world. 
parties tattoos depression dance
parties tattoos depression dance

Command

In January of 2012, Sergei Polunin, with a scandal and the phrase “I’m tired of receiving orders,” left the Royal Ballet troupe, where he was the youngest soloist in history.  Just at the moment when the whole world press began to write about Polunin, the British producer Gabriela Tana suggested that he become the main character of the documentary about himself.  Later, Sergei will say for that the frankness of the tape and the credibility of the crew, the merit is all Gaby’s.
parties tattoos depression dance

Stephen Cantor, the director of “Dancer”, and Gabriela Tann are both Oscar nominees.  Together Tana and Kantor filmed with the support of the BBC, and participated in its production in general.  All the familiar and people close to Polunin participated, from the famous choreographer and former classmate Jade Hale-Christopher, to his mother Galina, and choreographer Igor Zelensky.  Polunin, at the time of the decision to start filming, was only 22 years of age.

parties tattoos depression dance
parties tattoos depression dance
parties tattoos depression dance

New Rudolf Nureyev?

Before leaving the Royal Ballet and covering his body with tattoos, Sergei Polunin was simply immersed in ballet.  He danced better than anyone else – so much that he was immediately transferred to the third year at a London school, and at the age of 17 he began to perform as a member of the troupe.  Polunin’s fellow students remember that he was always the best, and the ex-director of the Royal Ballet says in the film: “He was too big for supporting roles like the bronze idol. People did not look at the soloists, but at him.”  Thanks to the phenomenal technique, excellent jumps, the ideal physical form and charisma, Sergei received an offer to become a leading soloist in just 19 years.  British newspapers rattled.  After the premiere of “Giselle” they came out with headlines like “Who danced Giselle?” – Polunin so eclipsed the title performer of the ballet.
parties tattoos depression dance

People booked tickets for Sergei’s performances in two years in advance, applauded for double digit curtain calls, and waited for him at the exit from the theater.  Considering that after Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov there was not a single ballet dancer of this scale from Russia and the countries of the former USSR, Polunin was immediately dubbed their successor.  And even in a video for Dior, he appeared with a portrait of Nureyev in his hands.

parties tattoos depression dance
parties tattoos depression dance
parties tattoos depression dance

parties tattoos depression dance

 parties tattoos depression dance

Take Me To Church

A sun-drenched building, talc on the floor, a tattooed Sergei Polunin in beige tights dances to “Take Me To Church” by Hozier.  At the time of this publication, the video has 19 million hits, it was viral.  When Sergei realized that he was not cramped in the Royal Theater, but in classical ballet in general, he decided he could no longer live like that.  He no longer had unconquered peaks, and he decided to end his career. To put an end to the most significant part of his life, Polunin asked friend Jade Hale-Christopher to give him a farewell dance.  Kiev, then London, then Moscow – no theater in the world gave Sergei what those four minutes uploaded to YouTube did.  Contracts (including ballet) were poured on him, people wrote letters to him and begged him to continue to dance – all this inspired him to continue his career.

parties tattoos depression dance

 

Sergei Polunin and the popularization of the ballet

Like Polunin or not, the fact remains: his name on the poster “sells” the performance better than almost any other and attracts to the theater even those who have never before been there.  Before leaving the classical choreography (which the ballet community still mourns about), he was a real rock star in the classical scene – and people reacted to him like Iggy Pop.  Polunin’s active participation in related projects – glossy filming, fashion shows, advertising premium marks, filming the same “Take Me To Church” – is what he is scolded for the most.  Things were said like, “narcissism can ruin,” and “not such a talent,” “the main thing is ballet,” and so on.  But in fact, we will never know if the Royal Theater in London would have made such a ticket, and many other theaters, if they had not danced the “pop star” Polunin. 

parties tattoos depression dance

The concept of “I’m tired, I’m leaving” in classical art

“I wanted to go to America, but nobody would take me – they thought I was crazy,” Sergei says in the film about the consequences of his abrupt departure from the Royal Ballet.  According to rumors, indeed, Polunin broke several negotiations with American theaters because of his reputation as an unreliable member of the corps.  The fact is that ballet is a very conservative environment.  Dancers very rarely move from one theater to another and certainly do not break the contract, being 22-year-old principal: this is a professional suicide.  After these antics, a “bad boy” label was glued to Polunin, and he himself began to think what he could do besides the ballet.  While out of plans – to open an agency whose managers would protect the interests of ballet artists, open several schools, film (two Hollywood tapes are already out this fall), and continue to dance, if there is enough time.  The only big ballet Project Polunin, was very coldly received by critics, but, obviously, Sergei now has a completely different life and other priorities.

parties tattoos depression dance
parties tattoos depression dance
parties tattoos depression dance
parties tattoos depression dance

Why the history of Polunin has been controversial for nearly ten years

Firstly, because Sergei turned his life into a reality show – he honestly tells what he thinks about the classical ballet and what his plans for life are, in front of the fans.  He leaves choreography and returns to it.  We observe the process of an important life choice of an exceptionally talented person in real time.  Secondly, because many are worried about whether Polunin will enter kitsch (Nikolai Baskov was once a promising opera singer, and Anastasia Volochkova, a good ballerina).  Already now in an interview Sergei, jokingly or not, calls himself “the best dancer in the world.” A great talent combined with youth, fame and the desire to make revolution can be a dangerous combination.  Do spectators have the right to condemn Sergei, even if tomorrow he decides to take part in the show “The Voice”?  There are no answers, but it will be interesting to follow future development.
parties tattoos depression dance
parties tattoos depression dance
parties tattoos depression dance
parties tattoos depression dance

 

GQ Style’s Cover Star

GQ Style’s Cover Star

SERGEI POLUNIN IS GQ STYLE RUSSIA’S COVER STAR

PHOTOS BY SIMON EMMETT •  STYLING BY GRACE GILFEATHER  •  HAIR BY TRACIE CANT

On the heels of a Vogue Ukraine story, ballet dancer Sergei Polunin is back in the spotlight. The Ukrainian dancer covers GQ Style Russia’s fall-winter 2017 issue. Simon Emmett photographs Polunin for the occasion, offering a more laid-back approach to the magazine’s editorial style. It’s here that stylist Grace Gilfeather pulls together the latest fashions from brands like Gucci.

 

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. alexandermcqueen.com. Tights by Capezio, £25. capezioeurope.com

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.

Albert Watson Photographs Sergei

Albert Watson Photographs Sergei

Learning From The Masters: Albert Watson Photographs Dancer Sergei Polunin

Legendary photographer

Albert Watson. Legend. Period, end. With a career spanning five decades and multiple iconic images, his career in fashion and portraiture would be the aspiration of any budding photographer. Alongside Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, PDN recognized him as one of the twenty most influential photographers of all time. In a new video by Profoto, the man whose subjects have ranged from Alfred Hitchcock to Kate Moss, discusses his approach to lighting, photography, and life.

His subject for the shoot is dancer Sergei Polunin. Watson drew inspiration from the likes of Michelangelo and Caravaggio to create stark black and white images.  He displays Polunin both through motion and portraiture as a sculpted work of art. Shooting in studio, he used the Profoto Pro-10 pack, multiple Pro Heads, and a Softlight Reflector White (beauty dish). His camera system was a Phase One.

Lighting

Several moments in the video will stick out. His use of a beauty dish in a high Rembrandt position reminds us that one of the most important things to do with light is to think outside of the box. You don’t have to use every light the way it’s expected to be used.  For example, beauty dish over camera head-on in standard “beauty” position. The unique placement comes with other adjustments.  Black fabric on the floor of the white seamless prevents light from bouncing up and filling in the desired shadows. He further uses black fabric on either side of the subject to reduce fill and deepen shadows.  This allows him to essentially create a “black box” scenario on a white cyc.

Movement

He also used see-through fabric during the movement shots to add both texture and momentum to the dance images. This minor addition takes an already wonderful shot to the next level by providing a bit of the unexpected.

Most important, Watson takes a moment to remind us that while it is easy to get caught up in light placement, exposure readings, it is always important to remember that there is a real human being in front of the lens. Technique is important, but not nearly as important as keeping the subject comfortable and engaged in the process.

A great photographer and a great resource. Check out the video to learn a bit about his technique.

Sergei Polunin for Numéro Homme 2014

Sergei Polunin for Numéro Homme 2014

The star of Marc Jacobs’ fall-winter 2014 advertising campaign, ballet dancer Sergei Polunin continues his ongoing relationship with the fashion industry, appearing in the most recent issue of Numéro Homme.  Hitting striking poses as is to be expected, Polunin is photographed by Jacob Sutton.  Outfitted by stylist Jean Michel Clerc, Polunin wears fall fashions from Berluti, Dries Van Noten, Ermenegildo Zegna Couture and more.

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!”

 

FASHION DIRECTION: CHARLOTTE STOCKDALE
STYLING: MELISSA SIMPEMBA
GROOMING: MATT MULHALL AT STREETERS
RETOUCHING: DIGITAL LIGHT LTD

Zoo Magazine Shoot 2013

Zoo Magazine Shoot 2013

Sergei Polunin for Zoo Magazine 2013

Bryan Adams shoots a stunning series of images starring former Royal Ballet star Sergei Polunin, styled by Lotta Aspenberg, for the latest issue of Zoo Magazine. Grooming by Mark Daniel Bailey.

Sergei is currently wowing crowds with his performance as Crown Prince Rudolf in the Russian premiere of Kenneth MacMillan’s ‘Mayerling‘ at the Stanislavsky Theatre in Moscow.




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