model – Sergei Polunin

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GQ Style’s Cover Star

GQ Style’s Cover Star



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.


Reflex (Czech Republic) Article 2017

Reflex (Czech Republic) Article 2017

The famous dancer Sergei Polunin: “I ripped off the Russian coat of arms on the arm shortly before the annexation of the Crimea”

Marek Gregor

Sergei Polunin (27 years old) is today a world superstar. At the age of 19 he became the premier of the Royal Ballet in London, but left this famous scene in less than three years. Despite the fact that Polunin limited his performances to the public to a minimum, he still races over the stage with such ease that the audience grows numb with delight. He deserved a lot of nicknames: Bad guy, James Dean of the ballet, Embodiment of the jump beyond the edge. Recently, he begins to embody one more of his dreams – to become an actor. Recently, the shooting of the film “Murder in the Orient Express” was directed by Kenneth Bran, where Polunin played along with Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Penelope Cruz.

The general public noticed Polunin at the end of 2014 in a video for the song of the Irish singer Hosier Take Me To Church, shot by photographer David Lachapelle.Stunning jumps and pirouettes of the then 24-year-old dancer, covered with tattoos and scars, today scored 20 million views on YouTube. Paradoxically, Polunin was also attracted by the Air Force channel, which co-produced the biographical documentary “Dancer”. At the end of May, the film will be shown in Czech cinemas.

Polunin was born in 1989 in the Ukrainian city of Kherson on the Black Sea coast in a Russian-speaking family. At the age of 13, he was accepted into a ballet studio at the Royal Academy in London, and almost immediately began talking about him as a future star. At the age of 19 he became the premier of the Royal Ballet, the youngest in its history. But less than three years later he left this scene, and the media began to write about his unbridled lifestyle full of parties, alcohol and cocaine. He himself admits that he often reinforces the strength of various substances before the speeches: “Then I do not feel pain, I get drunk, and often I do not even remember how the speech went,” says Polunin in artlessly in a documentary film shot in 2012-2016.Two months ago in the British capital the premiere of a large-scale performance Project Polunin was held, on which Sergei Polunin worked together with his girlfriend Natalia Osipova. The dancer appeared before the Prague public on May 1 at the National Theater in the Dancer Live program.

Reflex: You are from Ukraine, lived and worked in London for a long time, and then performed in Russia. You spend a lot of time in Los Angeles and just returned from a tour of Japan. Where do you feel at home?

Sergei Polunin: I often return to London, and despite the fact that this city I like and every time amazes me, I do not consider it my home. So, if you are asking about this, Ukraine is probably the closest thing to me.

– After in 2012 you left the Royal Ballet in London, a year and a half you danced in Moscow and Novosibirsk. Finally, shortly before the annexation of the Crimea by Russian troops, you left. On the hand of one of your hands you have a tattoo in the form of a coat of arms of Russia, on the other – of Ukraine …

– I ripped off the Russian coat of arms shortly before what happened, as if I had a premonition of what would happen. I put the Ukrainian coat of arms later. Anyway, I think that it’s time for these two countries to get closer again.

“It will probably take some time …”

– You’re right. I would like to help to establish contacts. In Russia I am familiar with influential people. In Novosibirsk, where I lived for a while, people of art, especially ballet, have the privilege: they meet people who usually do not intersect with each other. You talk with the head of the police, the head of the mafia, the head of the largest company – in general, with all who have power … In Ukraine, I especially do not have dating, so long … So I’m going there to return.

– On the Russian expansion, Czechs, we also left quite fresh memories. It has not even been a hundred years since the troops of the Warsaw Treaty countries occupied us under the Soviet leadership. Were you horrified when the war started in the east of Ukraine?
– I’m from the Russian-speaking part of the country, and there are absolutely the same people as those who live in Russia. In addition, I think that, for example, even between Russia and America there are no special differences. I am firmly convinced that we must cancel the borders. I’m tired of showing visas everywhere, and when I’m somewhere I do not care how it’s called: Europe, the Czech Republic, Russia, Ukraine or the USA …

– You say that you do not feel at home in London, but you live there with your girlfriend – the soloist of the Royal Ballet Natalia Osipova. What do you think about Braxit?

“It’s not what I wanted again.” In general, everyone in my environment is unhappy with this.

– Could you compare the conditions created for the art of ballet in different parts of the world? In the documentary film Air Force “Dancer” you say that dancers in London can not afford to rent an apartment, and that they live four or five together in one apartment …

– When I danced in London, none of us could afford even a normal dinner. I plowed like a horse. I was a soloist, but I could not buy a car, not to mention extravagant things. The same thing begins in Russia. Previously, it was customary to give an apartment to those who are part of the troupe. However, they renounce unlimited contracts, and the contracts are prolonged for a year, including at the Bolshoi Theater and Stanislavsky Theater. It is not easy for a person to live in Russia. In the same way as the dancer of the Royal Ballet. In my time dancers there received a thousand pounds a month, and the first year as a soloist I was paid two and a half thousand.

“Was that the main reason for leaving the Royal Ballet?”

– Yes and no. Money did not interest me so much, I was young and did not need them especially. But it seemed strange to me that dancers are rarely seen on TV. I asked myself why they do not appear, for example, in advertising? I think that this is due to the ballet policy. We were constantly told that agents are bad people, that they will only suck money out of us. Today in the world of ballet, several directors of ballet scenes decide everything. And who else should protect our interests, if not our agents? If you can not be seen in the media, you do not earn enough money, then you can easily be manipulated. I think that dancers (not only considering the time spent on training) deserve the same recognition as, for example, actors, not to mention athletes. So it seems to me a long time ago, but the idea that I should change everything, came to me only after talking with David Lashapel. He asked me: “How is it possible that you do not have your own manager? For example, opera singers have their agents in different countries, then why should not they have the stars of dance? “So recently I created my own project …

– Do you mean Project Polunin?

– Yes. I even came into conflict with my own employees. They told me: “What are you doing? Why do you want to pay more for the dancers, although they usually get paid 300 pounds a week? “Yes, that’s the standard, but that’s why none of the star dancers even can afford to buy their own apartment even at the end of their career.

– The premiere of Project Polunin was held in London two months ago. You returned to the London ballet scene after five years. When you left, they wrote about you that you behave riotously, that you can not be relied on. How did they receive you now?


– I was personally helped by the video Take Me To Church. Before that, strange rumors were circulating about me.

– It is known that people of art can behave wildly, and promoters and the public are attracted.

“But this does not apply to the ballet world.” If you behave this way, then you go against the system. People who organize ballet events, that is directors of theaters, do what is beneficial to them, and not what is good for speakers. Two hours after I spoke with the director of the Royal Ballet, he made a statement that I was an unreliable dancer, and yet I did not even realize at the time that I was leaving … In addition, after many years in the UK, they canceled my visa, that to me, a foreigner not from the European Union, has created great problems. Suddenly I was in the country without a residence permit, although I lived there for almost ten years. I thought that I would go to New York, but there were afraid of fairy tales about me, so in the end I was delighted when I received an invitation from Russia. Recently in Japan they asked me about this again, saying: “You are a real professional.” This is a strange “half light.”

– In the final part of Project Polunin, you dance with Natalia Osipova in a composition called Narcissus and Echo. Is this about you?

“That’s what London criticism thought. Honestly, it was not even my idea. The play is based on the idea that different artists fulfill their own desires. As for the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus and Echo, this desire was fulfilled by Ilan Eshkery (a London composer who collaborated with David Gilmour, Annie Lennox and Amon Tobin, for example, is the author of music for David Attenborough’s documentary films, and now he is preparing a large-scale ballet project with Polunin and Lashapel – Ed. Ed.) . Eshkery has long wanted to write music on this topic. My project was born quite difficult, because I had to work together several “ego” together. Yes, do not laugh, to unite so many personalities so that together they work very well – this is probably the most difficult thing that I had to organize.

– Does David Lachapelle have a big “ego”?

“Perhaps you will not believe me, but he did not seem to me” egomaniac “, although everyone around him was terribly afraid. Our cooperation was born thanks to the manager Gabriel Tana and David Lachapelle’s assistant Milošu Garajde, who in 2014 on the opening day of David in London, it occurred to make a video together for the song Take Me To Church.
– The moment when at the London hotel Claridge’s Lachapelle offered you cooperation, you described it as follows: “I was completely at the bottom and lost. Then there was a dark streak in my life. I hated the ballet and knew that this would be my last dance. There was no doubt about that. “ And suddenly the world famous photographer invited you to take part in the Hawaiian island of Maui …

“He’s a great person, and working with him was incredibly easy.” He could listen well to the needs of the dancer. We still keep in touch. And we value each other’s opinion.

– Did Lachapelle become the man who opened the door to you in Los Angeles for Hollywood film producers?

– Rather, I was approached by the fact that he took a video for Take Me To Church with me. This video really helped me. At parties in Hollywood, it happened that I was approached by some famous director or actor and said: “I’m incredibly glad to see you, my wife told me about your video.” It was the same way in London, where I suddenly began to be taken again. Representatives of the Air Force wanted to participate in the already created film “Dancer”. In fact, it’s incredible: one such insignificant thing, like a four-minute clip, and all of a sudden there’s so much …

– Recently you starred in the movie with Johnny Depp. What is it like to change the ballet scene to the world of movie cameras?

– Movies are a wonderful environment. When I left the Royal Ballet, I asked myself a natural question: what next? I did not want to be just a dancer. Five years ago, Gabriela, the producer of the film Dancer, offered me to study at an acting school, but then I still did not want to completely abandon the dance career. And now, about six months ago, there was such a chance, literally from nowhere … I even acted in two American films at once. It’s hard to say which one is better. In the first, in the “Red Sparrow” with Jennifer Lawrence in the title role, I played a dancer. At the same time, I was approached by Kenneth Branagh with the proposal to star in the film “Murder in the Orient Express” (a new version of the many-time filmed detective Agatha Christie, with the release of the film scheduled for the fall of this year-Ed.) Along with Johnny Depp. I was a man who really wanted to be an actor but did not have any training.On the first day I came to the playground and already in the first scene that was filmed on the train opposite Willem Dafoe, and next to Derek Jacoby, Pfeiffer, and for me –Penelope Cruz, they did not know that this was the first real movie scene for me, such legends! Kenneth simply said: “We’ve started!” And I played without preparation, as if they were thrown into the water like a four-year old child and said: Swim! “Only then did I realize the huge difference between ballet and actor’s acting in the cinema, where every slightest movement means incredibly much.

– Probably the only famous dancer who achieved success on the screen is Mikhail Baryshnikov.

“But he was still a dancer.” I want, that someday I was considered not a dancer who plays, but a real actor … I already received the following excellent proposal. Acting makes me happy and helps to develop in ballet – I hope you will not be indignant, if I say so – to the industry.

– You say that acting makes you happy. And what makes you unhappy?

– When nothing happens. It’s horrible. When one day I have nothing to do, I’m depressed. I need to be constantly busy, fighting for something …

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!”



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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