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Sometimes They’re Blue…

Sometimes They’re Blue…

“He had these eyes. They were blue and they looked bluer because he had a dark head of hair. Soulful, and in some way; they seemed to say things that I knew he’s probably never said out loud.”  – Audrey Bell

“People with blue eyes are kind-hearted and always look for the best in people. They love with all their heart and are hard to forget about if you get the chance to love them. They are the best at pretending to be happy and tend to please others before themselves.”  –  Unknown

“I wish to stay drenched forever in those rain-blue eyes in those…soul-reaching crystals not moving a muscle nor breathing just savoring this turquoise ache against my heart.”  – Sanober Khan

“His eyes are blue, and blue eyes up close are a celestial phenomenon: nebulae as seen through telescopes, the light of unnamed stars diffused through dusts and elements and endlessness. Layers of light. Blue eyes are starlight.”   – Laini Taylor

“They’re crystal blue, a shade that shouldn’t exist on the human body, I shade I immediately crave, a shade that makes my heart beat a little bit faster–almost as if I recognize it…It’s the most perfect blue I’ve ever seen. Even from this distance his eyes are simply remarkable.”  – Kiersten White

“His eyes are blue like the ocean, and baby, I’m lost at sea.”  – Unknown

 

 

Peace, Love, & Ballet… Groovy.

Peace, Love, & Ballet… Groovy.

Peace Love Ballet

Sergei Polunin is many things… and usually the superlative of every last one.   In this post, I choose to focus on something that (like most of what he does) not all of us come by naturally… his groove.  Sergei is, without a doubt, wicked groovy.  Boasting the swagger of the young and carefree, he fuses exquisite ballet technique, superb natural abilities, and stunning physical attributes into one very cool persona.   Sergei palling up with David LaChapelle for the Diesel “Make Love, Not Walls” promotion was a groundbreaking, masterpiece of psychedelic peace, love, and harmony.

Yes, he is a white tights ballet god if there ever was one, but, never has a pair of jeans looked so good.  The film footage is stunning and shows off his youth, talent, and exuberance.  His happiness is contagious, and one cannot help but smile and step a little lighter after watching the production.

I choreograph with pixels

Now, as one who looks at video as a raw medium to be played with, celebrated, promoted, and spread forth even farther across the vast interwebs, “Make Love, Not Walls” was irresistible.  First off, I give complete and utter props to those who created it in the first place and it is with great care that I honor their vision.  It is my goal to maintain their original ideas, plans, and wishes, and send worthy reincarnations of it out to to reiterate and reinforce their conception.

That being said, here are a trio of my works that were inspired by and born of Diesel’s amazing 2017 advertising campaign “Make Love, Not Walls,” by David LaChapelle.

 Let there be PEACE love ballet

Then, peace LOVE ballet

And peace love BALLET

Finally, peace love ballet SERGEI

“Passion De Deux” Natalia And Sergei

“Passion De Deux” Natalia And Sergei

Passion de deux: The explosive chemistry between Royal Ballet superstar Natalia Osipova and ‘bad boy’ dancer Sergei Polunin

passion de deux
Natalia Osipova with Sergei Polunin

My interview with Russian ballet star Natalia Osipova has not got off to the best of starts. 

So guarded is the darling of the Royal Ballet – who has now segued into modern dance with a risqué new show at Sadler’s Wells – about her love affair with Sergei Polunin, the brooding enfant terrible of dance, that I worry their relationship may be on the rocks.

Dubbed ‘the Brangelina of Ballet’, the two have been together for over a year now. They fell in love while dancing Giselle together in Milan, which sounds so sexy and romantic it makes me feel faint.

Their chemistry – on and off stage – seems quite explosive. I imagine they have fiery rows – and even more heated, er, reconciliations. But to my horror, Natalia says at first that she doesn’t ‘want to discuss our feelings for each other in public’. What?

The dancer, who turned 30 in May, is at pains to demonstrate how much she has grown since her relationship with Sergei began last summer – when, clearly in the throes of early passion, she made the gushing admission that they found it hard to be apart for more than two days.

Sergei – who left the Royal Ballet amid drama and allegations of drug-taking just before Natalia joined as a principal, giving their union a star-crossed twist – has said that he never wants to dance with anyone but Natalia again.

But the Natalia I encounter today – busily rehearsing a contemporary dance ensemble specially choreographed for her by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Russell Maliphant and Arthur Pita (Sergei dances the latter two works with her), which will return to Sadler’s Wells later this month after a successful summer run and then transfer to New York – is altogether more composed than she has seemed before.

passion de deux
Natalia and Sergei performing in new dance piece Silent Echo at Sadler’s Wells in June

Despite having made London her home since 2013, Moscow-born Natalia still struggles with the language. ‘This is my biggest challenge. I need to study English and to learn it properly, but there is never the time,’ she sighs.

With the help of a translator, she explains how she has evolved of late. ‘I am a highly emotional person, confident and bold, but ruled by my emotions. I am capable of a sort of madness. If I am feeling emotionally charged, I could buy a ticket and move to another continent!’ she exclaims.

‘I am too spontaneous sometimes. But now that I am 30 I think I am becoming more balanced and getting better at thinking before I speak or act.’

Even just the way Sergei says ‘good luck’ can make me feel much better

Perhaps we can rewind a few months for the sake of this interview, I joke. I am not sure my humour translates. She has previously admitted that, due to their similar temperaments, she and Sergei have been known to clash.

‘We are two strong characters and at times this creates friction, but you learn to make compromises and to find ways of not arguing with your partner,’ she explains. ‘Sergei is a very fiery and emotional person, but he is emotional in a different way to me. I can’t quite explain it. We are different people, of course…’ She trails off, and I get the sense she is wading through verbal quicksand here, resisting the Brangelina-isation of them as a couple, while glorying in the loved-up state she has found herself in.

She doesn’t care what others might make of their relationship, she says. ‘I am sure there were people who had something to say on the matter, but I am not concerned about it.’

And though she is a self-confessed hot-headed leading lady, Natalia reveals that, when dancing with Sergei, she enjoys letting him take control. ‘As a very strong person, I have always tended to take the lead, but with Sergei, it is he who leads.

‘That is the dynamic that works best for the two of us. As a female it’s an interesting feeling and state of mind when the male can take charge on stage. It has been something new for me and I like it.’

passion de deux
 Natalia and Sergei performing in Run Mary Run by Arthur Pita, specially commissioned for them, at Sadler’s Wells in June

‘We are at a different point in our relationship now. We are very solid and open with each other. We understand that work is work and we both have to make professional decisions. We wouldn’t restrict ourselves to only dancing with each other, because it wouldn’t be the best decision for our careers.’

But wouldn’t she feel jealous watching Sergei dance with another? ‘On a personal level, it would be bad to see him with someone else, but professionally, no,’ she insists. ‘I am very lucky that I am not and never have been a jealous person.’

This trait must have come in handy when Natalia’s relationship with her former boyfriend, Russian ballet star Ivan Vasiliev, broke up shortly before she moved to London and took up with Sergei.

The pair had been the golden couple of the Bolshoi, but rumour had it (supported by Vasiliev’s own admission) that he left her for a younger dancer – ballerina Maria Vinogradova, to whom he is now married. (This scandal was referred to as ‘the Bolshoi love triangle’.)

‘I don’t listen to any gossip,’ Natalia says curtly. ‘Ivan and I have a good relationship. We are in close touch. We don’t see each other often, as we live in different places, but when we do it is very warm and fine. We have danced together since we split and I would happily do so again.’

For the moment, though, Natalia remains focused on dancing with Sergei in the independent Sadler’s Wells production, which represents a departure for her as a classically trained ballerina.

Staged in three parts, it involves a lot of strutting and shimmying, with costumes that could not be more unlike the restrictive, conservative ones worn in ballet.

The pair entwine themselves seductively in distressed jeans and T-shirts, perfect for showing off Sergei’s extensive collection of tattoos. ‘The less I wear, the more comfortable I am, so I loved this costume,’ says Natalia.

‘It felt so much lighter and freer than ballet clothes. The best part has been working directly with brilliant choreographers and creating amazing poses together. My body has had to get used to using different muscles, but I am loving it.’

And how does she feel about her paramour’s tattoos? ‘Actually, I like them,’ she giggles. ‘I think they reflect his personality quite organically. I am not planning to get any myself,’ she adds hastily. ‘I don’t think they would be suitable on my body.’

Lovers on stage and off, dancing their hearts out in denim, and a male lead who could be described as ‘a bit of rough’… comparisons to my favourite film, Dirty Dancing, are impossible to ignore.

Does Natalia feel a bit like Jennifer Grey to Sergei’s Patrick Swayze? ‘I love that film. It’s very iconic, but for some reason I never made this association.’

Like Dirty Dancing, Natalia Osipova and Guests, as the performance is titled (I wonder how Sergei feels about that), is about love.

‘It is set in the 1960s and about two people who are in love; the male character dies and she continues loving him [in one scene she tries to pull him from the grave]. It is deeply romantic, about love that surpasses death – not just love, but loyalty; about a woman who thinks she’ll never be able to be with anyone else.’

As a very strong person I tend to take the lead, but with Sergei it is he who leads

Given that Natalia commissioned the three pieces – each one written for her by a top choreographer (such is her star quality, they presumably jumped at the chance) – I can’t help but think that this gives an insight into the depth of her feelings for Sergei.

Having initially said that she didn’t want to discuss him, Natalia has let the word ‘we’ creep into her speech when discussing the man with whom she has shared a stage and now a life and a home.

‘We love Japanese food,’ she says in response to my question about what she likes to eat. ‘We just like to go to small local restaurants, nowhere fancy.’

 On a perfect weekend, ‘we like to walk around the canals in our neighbourhood of Little Venice and maybe visit London Zoo. We spend as much time outdoors as we can. We like to lie in bed as long as possible first, though, to feel fresh. Ideally, I would lie in until about 11am.

‘We like to cook together, although I am not a very good cook. Sergei is much better than me. He cooks mostly.’

It all sounds very domestic. Do they want children? ‘I think that should be the aim for every woman. That’s my point of view,’ says Natalia, somewhat cryptically. ‘We know each other’s families very well now too; there are good relations between the families.’

It was, in fact, through family that the two came together. Natalia is exceptionally close to her parents, who still live in Moscow, and tries to visit as often as her schedule allows.

‘I feel a huge responsibility to make them proud and pay them back for the sacrifices they made to allow my ballet career to happen. They were not well off – my father is an engineer and my mother doesn’t work – but they always found a way to give me opportunities, whether it be taking me to the theatre or finding money for dance lessons.’

Initially, Natalia was not drawn to ballet. She started out as a gymnast and it was her parents – presciently spotting her greater potential for dance – who insisted that she make the transition. ‘I wasn’t happy about it at first,’ she recalls, ‘but gradually I got used to it, and now I am so happy that I made that change and so grateful that they insisted.’

When Natalia was due to appear in Giselle in Milan in 2015 and her partner fell ill, it was her mother’s idea that she contact Sergei to see if he might stand in, so she sent him an email.

passion de deux
 Natalia and Sergei in Run Mary Run

‘He had at the time gone off by himself.’ (In a strop, so it was said, after spiralling into unhappiness and cocaine use, to explore a freelance career as a dancer/actor/model.) ‘My mother had seen him dance and suggested he might be a good pairing for me in this role.

‘That’s how it all started. I knew of his excellent reputation as a dancer. And as to his other reputations…it was his dancing that I chose to focus on and that made me write to him,’ she says diplomatically.

And was it love at first sight? ‘Yes. From the first meeting there were very strong feelings. We both understood there was something special.’

This attraction was palpable – and their performance so widely acclaimed that they will reprise the roles in a production of Giselle in Munich this month.

‘It was very emotional dancing with Sergei that first time,’ Natalia reminisces. ‘We came together as individuals, with our own experiences, and something a bit magic happened. I think the audience could feel it. It was emotionally very charged. I think they had a great time watching us in that show. Giselle is so romantic and will always be my favourite ballet.’

Natalia leads a highly regimented life as a dancer, with long days of rehearsals and few breaks. She has, like most top ballerinas, been dogged by injury. ‘This is part of my professional life and something I have to live with, but my injuries aren’t giving me too much grief at the moment.’

Though only 5ft 5in tall, with tiny bones, she feels that her body is oaf-like by dancing standards. ‘It has been a challenge,’ she sighs. ‘I have to be very strict with what I eat. I have nothing made of flour and no sugar. I eat mostly salads.’

NATALIA LOVES… 

Fashion failsafe For a red-carpet event, it has to be Alexander McQueen.

Film to curl up in front of I love Francis Ford Coppola and The Godfather, and Sergei’s favourite actor is Mickey Rourke, so we try to watch anything he is in.

Plan B I would be a painter. I love getting my paints out and am thinking of doing a course soon.

Style inspiration I love the actresses from bygone French cinema; I particularly admire Fanny Ardant.

Listening to Elvis Presley, Ella Fitzgerald and Otis Redding. We have a record player and their songs sound best on vinyl.

Go-to countries Israel was beautiful and fascinating. And Beijing has pandas – my favourite animal – in the zoo. I missed rehearsals to look at them.

Last meal on earth Spaghetti – because that is what I have to deny myself as a dancer.

Alternative dance partner Carlos Acosta is a genius and it is the greatest honour to dance with him. When I first joined the Royal Ballet he took so much time to make me feel welcome. He has a magnetism and a talent that is unsurpassed. 

Having a man in her life who understands the sacrifices required of her must make things easier? ‘I don’t know any different because my boyfriends have only been from the dance world, and it seems to have worked out pretty well so far,’ she says coyly. ‘It’s a nice feeling to be with someone who understands.’

Natalia once said she found pre-performance nerves so bad that she wanted to run away. Having Sergei by her side makes a difference.

‘With age, I have got better at managing the nerves. Now I know how to not let it get to that point. I arrive at the theatre much earlier and spend some time on the stage, living the life of my character before the show. That is really helpful.

‘ It’s such an individual state, so even Sergei can’t always help me, but it is great when he’s there beside me. He can try to calm me down. Even just the way he says “good luck” can make me feel much better.’

When I ask if Sergei would consider a return to the Royal Ballet, as some have speculated he might (it would, after all, make sense with her there), Natalia will only say, ‘I can’t answer that. It is a question for him. But he is an outstanding dancer and I think it would be really interesting if he did decide to.’

Either way, the pair intend to partner on stage as much as possible – even if not exclusively. ‘We want to find a way to do more together,’ Natalia reveals, sounding for a moment a bit too smitten, and then correcting herself.

‘I mean, I would like to think that of course we are professionals, so we would dance our best with anyone. It shouldn’t make a difference, but…it is such a special feeling to dance with the person you love.’

“The Other Dance” Between Sergei & Natalia

“The Other Dance” Between Sergei & Natalia

Watch with your heart.  You’ll see the other dance going on in “Other Dances.”

Sergei Polunin/Сергей Полунин “The Other Dance” with Natalia Osipova

Clips from the ballet “Other Dances”
Choreography by Jerome Robbins

Alternative music: “Tumult” by Kai Engel

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A Ballet/балет iMovie.

The Mayerling Incident, A Tragic, True Story

The Mayerling Incident, A Tragic, True Story

1889 Tragedy at Mayerling : ‘Love Deaths’ Remain Fascinating

March 19, 1989|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer
VIENNA — For 100 years, the mysterious “love deaths” at Mayerling, a village just southwest of here, have gripped the imagination of Central Europeans and provided the raw material for many a play, film and a ballet by Kenneth MacMillan for The Royal Ballet.
This year, 1989 marks the centennial of the Mayerling tragedy, and it is being observed with the publication of books and articles analyzing the incident, the details of which were purposely obscured at the time.

On Jan. 30, 1889, Crown Prince Rudolf, archduke of Austria-Hungary and heir to the Hapsburg crown, was found dead in the imperial hunting lodge at Mayerling, in the Vienna Woods, about 15 miles from the capital. Beside the body of the 30-year-old prince lay that of his mistress, the Baroness Marie Vetsera, 17. Both had been shot.

At the time, the Roman Catholic Hapsburgs were at the zenith of their power, ruling much of Central Europe. Rudolf’s father, the Emperor Franz Josef, ordered an immediate cover-up, and this brought on much of the mystery that has shrouded the deaths.

No Mention of Suicide

A finding of murder was out of the question; Rudolf, after all, was heir to the throne. At first there was even no mention of suicide, out of fear that the church would not permit a proper burial. Rudolf’s death was attributed to poison at the hands of his enemies, or to natural causes.

Because Rudolf was unhappily married to Princess Stephanie of Belgium, no public mention was made of the teen-age baroness. Her body was spirited away and secretly buried.

Finally, the emperor informed the Pope that Rudolf had committed suicide in a “deranged state of mind,” thus allowing a Catholic burial in the imperial vault in Vienna.

The mystery gave rise to much speculation about the circumstances surrounding the deaths, much of it emphasizing the romantic aspects of Mayerling. Not until years later, on the death of Franz Josef in 1916 and the crumbling of the Hapsburg Empire, did the details became widely known.

But because the incident had been so shrouded in secrecy and deceit, conflicting versions endured.

This year, for instance, Clemens M. Gruber, an author and opera archivist, published an account called “The Fateful Days of Mayerling.” In it he argues that Rudolf died in a brawl following a bout of drinking. In Gruber’s view, Marie’s relatives forced their way into the lodge and Rudolf drew a revolver, accidentally shooting the baroness. He is then said to have been killed by one of her enraged relatives.

Attempts to exhume the body of the baroness from a nearby cemetery have been blocked by members of her family.

Another writer, Gerd Holler, who is also a physician, says in his book, “Mayerling–New Documents on the Tragedy 100 Years Afterward,” that Rudolf had arranged an abortion for Marie, who was reputedly three months pregnant. Holler contends that she died in the process and that Rudolf committed suicide.

Empress Zita, who died last week at the age of 96 in a Swiss convent, argued that Rudolf was murdered by French political enemies of his father. She was the consort of Karl I, the last emperor, and grand nephew of Franz Joseph.

Most scholars now prefer the version offered by historian Brigitte Hamann in her book, “Rudolf, Crown Prince and Rebel.” Hamann, who took part in a recent international conference on the incident at Mayerling, said in an interview:

“He was a poetic young man and brooded a lot. He was ill with syphilis and felt guilty that he had infected his wife. They had no children. The reason for all the confusion was the cover-up by the Imperial Court…  The fact is that Rudolf was a very nervous, sensitive man who flirted with suicide more than once.”

Courtesan’s Refusal

She said that recently discovered documents show that Rudolf proposed the idea of a love murder-suicide to another woman, a prominent courtesan, Mizzi Kaspar, but that she refused.

According to Hamann, the Baroness Vetsera, who was in love with the increasingly despondent Rudolf, was more susceptible to the love-death idea.

“There is no question,” she said. “Rudolf shot the girl and then himself.”

After the deaths, the emperor ordered the hunting lodge at Mayerling razed and a Catholic convent built in its place. It still stands, and the Carmelite nuns there still pray for the souls of Rudolf and Marie.

 

Dance Me To The End Of Love, Sergei & Natasha

Dance Me To The End Of Love, Sergei & Natasha

 DANCE ME TO THE END OF LOVE

An article by SARAH CROMPTON featured in the FEBRUARY/MARCH 2017 issue of 1843Magazine.

Not long after Natalia Osipova danced with Sergei Polunin for the first time, she and I met backstage at the Royal Opera House. The rumour from Milan, where they performed “Giselle”, was that the love they revealed for each other on-stage came straight from the heart. Osipova smiled but stayed silent. On the other hand, she couldn’t stop talking about the wonder of dancing with him. “Different partners are like different lives and your character changes depending on the partner. Dancing with Sergei for the first time, every­thing changed. I had never danced Giselle in that way before,” she said. “He has a very different energy flow. I often feel like I am the boss, and I know what I am doing and where I am going. I am the lead. Maybe this is not right, but it is how it is. With Sergei it was different because he is so natural on stage and I just followed his lead.”

For Polunin, dancing with Osipova was also a new experience. “It was the first time I cared about the person. It was a natural feeling. And because it was natural, it was easy,” he told me later. “I watched where she was stepping and I made sure everything was fine. Before I was in my own world. And it is nice because you have a purpose being there when you care about someone. Otherwise you just go on-stage, it is not like a real thing. I think people can see it. The way someone looks at someone. On-stage you are naked. They can see who you are.”

It’s not unusual for dancers to be lovers. Ballet is such an all-consuming activity that relationships inevitably blossom within the confines of its world: Thomas Edur and Agnes Oaks, formerly of English National Ballet; Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg, who left the Royal Ballet together in 2013; Ethan Stiefel and Gillian Murphy at American Ballet Theatre; Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild at the New York City Ballet. All are partners in life and art. Sometimes, indeed, the artistic partnership outlasts the romantic one. Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares both continue to dance at the Royal Ballet although their marriage is over; Osipova performed with her former lover Ivan Vasiliev long after their relationship hit the rocks. He is now married to Maria Vinogradova, another Bolshoi ballerina.

Natalia Osipova and Sergei Polunin in Russell Maliphant’s “Silent Echo”, Sadler’s Wells, London, 2016

Leap of love 

What makes the partnership of Osipova and Polunin fascinating is their high profile in the dance world, and the way their love seems so intricately bound up with their art. Audiences flock to see them, hoping to glimpse into their souls.

Who they are is complicated by the difference in their temperaments and career trajectories. Polunin has been branded a bad boy ever since he walked out on the Royal Ballet in 2012, turning his back on the company that had nurtured him since childhood and on the prodigious talent that had made him a principal dancer at the age of 19. He talked of performing on cocaine, of crying every morning; he screamed his sadness through the tattoos that spread over his body.

In person, he is less rebel than lamb, his gentleness and anxiety immediately striking. What you sense is his reluctance to embrace his talent for dance, which has made him a star but also trapped him. In the new film, “Dancer”, which traces his progress from his native Ukraine to his current worldwide fame, he explains at one point: “I didn’t choose ballet. It was my mum’s choice.” His ambivalence about dance explains why he announced, almost as soon as he met Osipova in 2015, that he would dance only with her. “I don’t love dance enough just to dance. I am prioritising dancing with her. It’s nice because you have a purpose there when you care about someone.”

Osipova is travelling in the opposite direction. With her long dark hair pulled back from her face she can seem stern and withdrawn, a distance emphasised by the fact that despite having worked in America and Britain for six years, she still chooses to speak mainly through an interpreter. But when she laughs – which she does a lot – she’s like a girl, mimicking people, chatting away in Russian with great animation.

She loves Polunin, that’s clear. “He is very sincere,” she told me once. “I think he is a person I can always trust; in any situation I can rely on him. He is strong and very charismatic but as a man he is gentle and kind. I have never before felt this attitude towards me.” But she also loves to dance. “I really can’t live without it.” She left Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet and came to the Royal Ballet, (via the Mikhailovsky and American Ballet Theatre), in April 2013 and she is still full of ambition. “I like my work, I like my job and I concentrate on what I do. Sergei is probably the most talented person in the ballet world I know. But I have to work hard to achieve success.”

OSIPOVA: KENSINGTON MID-LENGTH HERITAGE TRENCH COAT IN HONEY, BURBERRY, £1,295/$1,795. POLUNIN: SANDRINGHAM LONG HERITAGE TRENCH COAT IN HONEY, BURBERRY, £1,395/$1,895

This profound difference in attitude becomes clearer when I watch them working together on the programme of contemporary dance devised for her, and produced by London’s Sadler’s Wells, with which they have been travelling the world. In the studio of the choreographer Russell Maliphant, I glimpse the instinctive synergy with which they move together as they spin in a pattern of dazzling turns, revelling in their prodigious prowess, their speed and lightness. But it’s Osipova who drives the rehearsal, working obsessively to shape her classically trained limbs to new contemporary demands, while Polunin stretches out, cat-like, or throws off an elegant jump.

In another studio, on another day, I watch them work with Arthur Pita on a tiny narrative ballet about doomed lovers, set to the songs of the Shangri-Las. Polunin relishes putting on 1950s poses, flicking his hair and clicking his fingers, but rarely seems to be dancing full out. In contrast, Osipova is focused and intense. While he lies on the floor, she is studying a book of song lyrics or repeatedly practising a step. “We are such different people,” Polunin said. “Incredibly different in every way.”

Working together on such a challenging programme causes tension. Voices are raised, rows break out. “Of course we quarrel quite a lot because we both have tempers,” Osipova explains. “It is difficult to find this harmony because we do have different opinions about work.” Polunin admits that collaborating so intensely in an unfamiliar idiom was a challenge. “It’s still hard to work hard together. Because at work there is more pressure and if you know someone really well you’re more aware of what they’re doing. When we dance the classics, that’s so easy and fine. But with the contemporary it is more challenging for me; that’s when it gets a bit rough. It is fun, but it’s tough on the body. And there are a lot of ways to go wrong; you can hit each other accidentally and sometimes the energy gets very intense.”

The programme he is now putting together for Sadler’s Wells in March, under the title “Project Polunin”, will be much more classical, a way he sees of playing to his strengths. Osipova will be involved, though she is juggling her commitments to him with her devotion to the Royal Ballet, where she will perform Kenneth MacMillan’s “Mayerling” in April. The pair also continue to make guest appearances in classical ballet in Italy, Russia and Germany, though they have not yet performed a traditional ballet together in Britain. Smuggled clips on YouTube catch the flavour of their rapport, the way her head gently curls into his neck as they dance “Giselle”, the extreme tenderness with which he gives her his hand.

 

OSIPOVA: SOFT BABY CALF CHINA RED JACKET, BOTTEGA VENETA, £3,650/$4,600. WOOLFORD SHEER TOUCH PANTY, £50/$65
POLUNIN: BLACK GLAZED CALFSKIN TROUSERS, HERMES, £4,440/$7,600

Their coming together fulfilled something in them both. “When I dance with him, it is really something special,” Osipova said. “Strange but wonderful at the same time.” But it is more than that. They now live together in London, but if they want to see each other, the fierce demands of ballet mean that they must carve out space to dance together. As Osipova put it, “to live together Sergei and I have to work together as well.”

Polunin acknowledges that he has benefited from her dedication. “She is very inspiring to me,” he says. “It’s amazing how much she knows about dance and I gather so much information from her.” But he also admitted that towards the end of last year, his mind was “25 per cent” on performance: he was focusing on the film about his career that was about to be released and on an organisation he is founding, also called Project Polunin, with which he hopes to “change the way the ballet industry works”.

His aim is to create a platform to give dancers, like opera singers and actors, access to lawyers and managers, and on which, rather than being tied to a theatre, they have the freedom to work with artists from other disciplines. It’s an ambitious plan, but one that fires his restless spirit. “It seems to me that ballet is just stuck. Theatre and opera have evolved and ballet needs to. It’s important to keep the classics alive, but we have got to create something to shake things up a bit.”

His searing performance to Hozier’s “Take Me to Church”, which was choreographed by his friend Jade Hale-Christofi and filmed by the photographer David LaChapelle and with which “Dancer” culminates, is part of that. On YouTube the film has already been watched by some 17m people. He admitted that when he shot that video he was on the verge of giving up dancing; now with Osipova by his side, and his eyes fixed firmly on his dreams, he is ready to carry on.

Dancer will be released in 32 countries this spring.
Project Polunin is at Sadler’s Wells, London, from March 14th-18th.
Mayerling is at the Royal Opera House, London, from April 28th




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