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His Own Words – Sergei Polunin

His Own Words – Sergei Polunin

His Own Words – Sergei Polunin

Sergei Polunin is a Ukrainian ballet dancer and a former principal dancer with the British Royal Ballet, before suddenly resigning in 2012, after only two years in the position. Polunin has a reputation for wild behavior, earning the nickname the “Bad Boy of Ballet.” He has recently gained more popularity following his performance in a music video choreographed to Hozier‘s hit single “Take Me To Church.” The music video was part of a larger Steven Cantor documentary on Polunin, Dancer, which premiered in 2016.

SERGEI POLUNIN BIO: EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION

Polunin was born Sergei Vladimirovich Polunin on November 20, 1989 (Sergei Polunin age: 27) in Kherson, Ukrainian SSR, to Galina Polunina and Vladimir PoluninFrom the age of four, the future dancer excelled in gymnastics classes. At age eight, his studies shifted towards dance, and he spent four years at the Kiev State Choreographic Institute. Polunina, in an interview with the New Yorker, suggests that pushing her son towards dance was his best shot for a better life. “In my life, the choices were between salted cabbage and marinated cabbage,” she said. “I wanted him to have more of a choice than that.” The extent to which she wanted her son to succeed was so extreme that she moved with Polunin to Kiev, causing the family to split up in order to make ends meet. Polunin’s father sought work in Portugal, while his grandmother became a maid in Greece, all to support his growing career.

In 2013, Polunin was accepted to the White Lodge, the Royal Ballet’s junior school in London, at the age of thirteen. At first devastated that they would not be able to afford the tuition, Polunin still attended largely in part from a grant given by the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation. Unfortunately, this meant that Polunina had to stay in the Ukraine, leaving behind her teenage son. Faced with his family’s sacrifices and the mounting pressure to succeed, Polunin became a star pupil. “In school, I knew I could not fight, could not mess up, because I would be thrown out,” he told Uinterview. “And then when I was twenty-one, I wanted to do all the things I missed out on.” He did enjoy the freedom of the two thousand acres of parkland surrounding the school, saying he felt like he, “Was in Harry Potter.” Polunin’s success was such that his teachers advanced him a full two school years ahead.

SERGEI POLUNIN BIO: THE ROYAL BALLET AND RESIGNATION

Once in the senior school, Polunin’s discipline began to dissolve. While still excelling in his studies, the rising start experimented with drugs. By 2009, he was the first soloist at the Royal Ballet; by 2010, he came principal dancer, the youngest ever in the company’s history. He also earned his title of “Bad Boy” at this time, using cocaine to heighten his adrenaline rush and tweeting about late night parties and tattoos. In an interview with Uinterview, Polunin talked about his experience of getting a tattoo, which was strictly forbidden by the Royal Ballet. “Oh you think I’m bad, I’m going to prove [to] you I’m the baddest [sic],” he recalled. “I always drew on myself, always knew I was going to have a tattoo, and tattoos represented freedom to me.” He was forced to cover his new tattoos with makeup. On January 24, 2012, after growing dissatisfaction with his career, Polunin stepped down from the principal position, telling BBC that he felt, “the artist in me was dying.” Looking back on the dancer’s decision, documentarian Steven Cantor offered his thoughts to the New York Times about Polunin’s motivations. “It became clear that he was dancing as hard as he could to get his family back together. Then his parents got divorced, and I think he felt, what am I dancing for? He just lost his will and went off the rails.” Polunin only recently allowed his mother to see his performances in person; he originally forbade her to do so.

SERGEI POLUNIN BIO: IGOR ZELENSKY

As a result of his bad reputation, Polunin had difficulty finding work with other companies. However, in the summer of 2012, he was invited to Russia by famous dancer Igor Zelensky, under whom he would train and become the principal dancer for The Stanislavsky Music Theatre and Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre. On Zelensky, Polunin has referred to him as a surrogate father. “Nobody would listen to me, there wasn’t any real conversation going on,” Polunin told Uinterview. “And that’s when Igor appeared.” Polunin reveres Zelensky so much that he has gone as far as to tattoo the name of the artistic director on his shoulder.

His time with Zelensky was not without controversy, however. In April 2013, after preparing for the principal dance role in director Peter Schaufuss’s Midnight Express, Polunin, along with Zelensky, quit days before opening night. Despite his superior also leaving the troubled production, many considered Polunin to be “depressed” again.

SERGEI POLUNIN BIO: HOZIER AND DANCER

Still frustrated at the seemingly dead-end to which his dance career had led him, Polunin encountered film producer Gabrielle Tana, who at the time had optioned Julie Kavanagh’s (the author behind his New Yorker profile) biography of Nureyev to be turned into a biopic. Polunin was not chosen for the role, but Tana pushed him to seek further collaborations in film. “I thought it was not just a compelling narrative but also the opportunity to capture someone brilliant in the prime of their career,” Ms. Tana said in an interview with The New York Times. “We didn’t really know what it would be, and Sergei was very wary at first. We were scared we would lose him.”

Tana suggested he work with American photographer and dance documentarian, David LaChapelle. Polunin ultimately decided to use the collaboration as his farewell performance to the dance world. LaChapelle suggested the then-relatively-unknown song “Take Me To Church,” by Hozier. Polunin would then fly down to shoot the music video in the empty chapel-like filmmaker’s studio in Hawaii. A longtime friend and fellow dancer, Jade Hale-Christofi, choreographed the piece. The music video would later become the centerpiece of large documentary work, Dancer, started in 2014 when Tana approached filmmaker Stephen Cantor. Dancer premiered in the Fall of 2016.

Following the worldwide success of Polunin’s Take Me To Church video, he has since decided to return to dancing. He continues to dance with Stanislavsky company and the Novosibirsk Ballet.

SERGEI POLUNIN BIO: PERSONAL LIFE

Polunin has been dating ballerina Natalia Osipova, who is a principal dancer at the Royal Ballet, since mid-2015. The pair has performed together in Russell Maliphant‘s Silent Echo, as part of a program of contemporary works. He has received numerous accolades for his performances, including the Prix de Lausanne and Youth America Grand Prix in 2006. He was named Young British Dancer of the Year in 2007.  In 2014 he was shortlisted as the best male dancer at the National Dance Awards in the U.K.

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This article was published by Uinterview on December 19, 2016.
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Polunin Debuts Royal Bayadere 2009

Polunin Debuts Royal Bayadere 2009

Polunin debuts Royal Bayadere 2009 and presented below are two reviews of his jaw-dropping performance as “Solor.”

Itinerant Balletomane Reviews Young Sergei

Itinerant Balletomane Reviews Young Sergei

Itinerant Balletomane reviews young Sergei and the veteran blogger is blown away

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sergei Polunin at the Stanislavsky Theater

I am completely starstruck.  Last week I saw Sergei Polunin perform twice with the Stanislavsky Theater – first as Basil in Don Quixote and then as the Prince in Swan Lake.  I’ve obviously heard a lot about Polunin.  For the non balletomanes out there, he was made a principal dancer at the Royal Ballet at the age of 20, making him their youngest principal ever. After two years, he unexpectedly quit the company.  A few months later, he signed on as a principal with the (respectable but still not nearly as famous) Stanislavsky Theater in Moscow.  You can read an excellent article about him here.

itinerant balletomane reviews young sergei
Natalia Somova and Sergei Polunin in Swan Lake

Lucky to catch him

Since his move to Moscow, Polunin has become a more elusive dancer to see, and I obviously felt very lucky to catch him in two performances. I was especially eager to see if he lived up to any of the hype. The answer is that he completely surpasses it.  I really have never been so impressed by a dancer. The thing that strikes me most forcefully about him is his enormous charisma.  Whenever he is onstage, he draws the eye to him.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that he has a beautifully intense stare, but he has much more than that.  In every moment he is performing he is fully present in the role.  Every gesture no matter how small is done with acuteness and power. This is especially potent in his portrayal of the Prince in Swan Lake, a role that has to anchor the ballet’s narrative without having much opportunity for solo dancing.  Polunin’s prince begins somewhat lost and disaffected; his ardent love for Odette seems to give him something to hold on to in life. His eyes follow her across the stage, and he runs to her as though drawn by some outside force.  

Dramatic intensity with textbook-perfect technique

Polunin’s solo variations combine this dramatic intensity with textbook-perfect technique.  I’ve seen a lot of impressive male dancers here in Moscow. Many of them seem to lose a sense of their character and of the audience as soon as they have to perform impressive jumps or turns.  Polunin never turns off the artistry. So many other male principals land with the greatest of care in order to avoid falling over or take an extra step. Doing this takes concentration you can see on their faces. Polunin simply lands on the ground perfectly and moves into the next step or pose.  He draws us with him in a torrent of movement. His technique does not fixate, even though that technique is beautiful. In addition to having amazing height on his jumps and beautiful turns, Polunin also boasts an arabesque and a back attitude that most ballerinas would kill for.

Nureyev comparison is apt

I’ve heard Polunin spoken of as the next Nureyev and the comparison is apt.  Sadly, however, this is a Nureyev without his Fonteyn.  Both evenings I saw Polunin performing with Natalia Somova, who just isn’t cutting it on this level.  She can be sweet and charming, but she lacks charisma and simply doesn’t have the same level of technique.  In addition, sometimes their partnership seems strained.  In particular, there was a disastrous pair of flying fish dives in Don Quixote, during the second of which Polunin didn’t manage to tip Somova over at all, and they ended up sort of hugging standing up.  I’ve seen videos of Polunin paired with other people and doing it brilliantly, so I assume that this is not an inherent flaw in his dancing, but I’m not enough of a dancer myself to tell who’s really at fault.

My favorite ballet orchestra ever

The wonderful partner that Polunin does get at the Stanislavsky is its beautiful orchestra.  Having been to five ballets at this theater, I am now prepared to dub it my favorite ballet orchestra ever. It is better than New York City, better than the Bolshoi, and miles better than the Royal.  Felix Korobov, the chief conductor, likes a fiery brass section and a quick tempo.  He always manages to bring out a full and lyrical sound.  Even so when he tampers with the music to fit the choreography.  The instrumentalists are a dream, particularly the French horn section and the harpist.  Sadly I can’t name them because they’re not listed on the website. Everything in the ensemble provides the emotional background for Polunin’s portrayal.  I know that the orchestra isn’t the reason Polunin moved to this theater, but I deeply wish it were.

So, in sum: see Polunin at the Stanislavsky (especially in Swan Lake), but hope with the rest of us that they persuade some wonderful young ballerina to move to the company.

Stanislavsky Theater, Don Quixote, June 14, 2013.  Music by Ludwig Minkus, Choreography by Alexei Chichinadze, Kitri: Natalia Somova, Basil: Sergei Polunin, Conductor: Anton Grishanin

Stanislavsky Theater, Swan Lake, June 20, 2013. Music by Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, Production by Vladimir Burmeister, Odette/Odile: Natalia Somova, Prince: Sergei Polunin, Evil Genius: Nikita Kirilov, Jester: Dmitri Zagrebin, Conductor: Felix Korobov
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Ralph Fiennes Presents To Berlin Buyers

Ralph Fiennes Presents To Berlin Buyers

Ralph Fiennes Presents Rudolf Nureyev Movie ‘The White Crow’ to Berlin Buyers (EXCLUSIVE)

Ralph Fiennes is in Berlin Thursday to present first footage to buyers from his latest directorial venture, “The White Crow,” which HanWay is selling at the European Film Market. Fiennes spoke to Variety about the project, which centers on the defection to the West of Russian ballet star Rudolf Nureyev in 1961.Fiennes first considered the story as a subject for a movie almost 20 years ago when he read Julie Kavanagh’s biography of the dancer, but the project was driven into production thanks to the work of producer Gabrielle Tana, who also produced Fiennes’ first two films as a director.What drew Fiennes to Nureyev’s story was “the force of a young performer, with a hunger to realize who he is as an artist and a person … the force of his spirit, his determination, that was the thing that really moved me.”

He added: “Nureyev doesn’t really want to come to terms with anything. He is constantly pushing himself, constantly hungry. There’s a line in the film: You have to aim higher, always higher.”

David Hare, the film’s screenwriter, is “very good at writing high-definition, provocative characters,” Fiennes said. “He is very good at writing what you might call impossible people, their temperament and attitude, but you need to sympathize with them as well, and see who they are inside. Also his sense of period and the political context is very acute.”

He added: “I believe David is one of the best writers we have for writing multi-faceted characters, with interior contradictions. In Rudolf Nureyev’s case, [he accurately portrayed] a temperament, an attitude, an ambition, a charm, a vulnerability, an intelligence and an alertness, going hand-in-hand with someone who can be abrasive and quite angry.”

The dance sequences were challenging, Fiennes said, but he was guided by Igor Zelensky, the former principal dancer with the Mariinsky Ballet and now artistic director at the Novosibirsk Theater of Opera and Ballet, and Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.

Casting a young dancer, Oleg Ivenko, with no experience as an actor in front of the camera, in the lead role was also a challenge, Fiennes said, but Ivenko has got “a wonderful talent, a wonderful charisma,” he said. He was joined in the cast by Adele Exarchopoulos, Chulpan Khamatova, Sergei Polunin and Fiennes himself.

Another challenge was that Fiennes “wanted it always to be as authentic as possible,” which led him to seek out such locations as St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum and Mariinsky Theater, and Paris’ Crazy Horse. Interiors for other settings, such as the rehearsal rooms at Paris’ Palais Garnier and Le Bourget Airport, were re-created at studios in Serbia.

Sergei Plays Yuri Soloviev In White Crow

Sergei Plays Yuri Soloviev In White Crow

In the upcoming biopic “White Crow” Sergei Polunin has been cast as Yuri Soloviev.  The Ralph Fiennes film is based on the defection chapter of legendary ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev’s life.  At first, I thought Sergei should play Nureyev.  The physique, the brooding good looks… it seemed like a given.  However, the more I learn about Soloviev, the casting makes more and more sense.

sergei plays yuri soloviev
Rudolf Nureyev

Nureyev’s defection left Soloviev the company’s star

Yuri Soloviev, born in Leningrad in 1940, was in the same class as Nureyev at the famed Vaganova ballet academy.  Soloviev graduated straight into the Kirov (Mariinsky today) ballet company.  In 1961, Soloviev made his debut in the West, first in Paris, then in London and New York.  It was during the Paris engagement that his colleague, Rudolf Nureyev, defected.  Soloviev carried the season on alone as the new male dance superstar.

sergei plays yuri solovkiev
Gabriela Komleva and Yuri Soloviev in “The Leningrad Symphony”

Of his first performances in New York, Walter Terry of The New York Herald Tribune wrote: “His appearances were nothing short of sensational and audiences were invariably screaming bravos.”  Audiences continued screaming bravos through most of his career.  He was brilliant in great classic roles.

sergei plays yuri soloviev
Yuri Soloviev

Soloviev introduced western audiences to the “double assemble”

In the ballet “The Stone Flower” he whirled round the stage in a step that at the time was virtually new to the West.  The double assemblé seemed humanly impossible to its new audience.  A double assemblé is when the dancer runs, leaps from one leg into the air, assembles (hence the name) his legs tightly together, spins around twice, and lands in a tidy fifth position.  For the record, Sergei has been popping these off since he was a kid in class at the Royal Ballet School.

sergei plays yuri soloviev
‘Yuri Soloviev and Alla Osipenko in “The Stone Flower”

Facially, Soloviev was a very good looking man.  His physique was another matter and here is where the comparisons to Sergei meet a fork in the road.  As described by one reviewer, Soloviev had a “large and even difficult body.”  It was a shape one would have not expected for grace.  The same reporter wrote that “he was a poet who looked like a transmogrified truck driver.”

Soloviev had ups too

Rejoining the Sergei path, one thing that made Soloviev a truly great dancer was his awareness of gravity… or the lack thereof.  Much like Sergei, he “moved into the air like a bird and grinned at the top of his jump” to again quote the aforementioned reporter.  He had the most remarkable elevation of any dancer of his generation.  More than the sheer height of these flights, they were combined with a softness, clarity, and ballon.  His airborne abilities led to his nickname of “Cosmic Yuri,” a nod to Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

sergei plays yuri soloviev
Yuri Soloviev

There seemed to be no technical difficulty he was unable to master completely.  And, again, much like Sergei, Soloviev was a sensitive and gifted actor, a master of understatement and taste.  As Albrecht in “Giselle,” he played the role with a beautiful desperate passion, yet was completely believable as the shy and handsome prince in “The Sleeping Beauty.”

So, as much as I originally wished to see Sergei portray Rudolf Nureyev, it seems Ralph Fiennes may have gotten it right to cast him as “Cosmic Yuri.”   We shall see.

– Pam Boehme Simon

2013 BBC Radio 4 Interview with Sergei

2013 BBC Radio 4 Interview with Sergei

BBC Radio 4 Front Row’s John Wilson interviews ballet superstar Sergei Polunin

BBC Radio 4 Interview from 2013 with ballet dancer Sergei Polunin backstage before Coppelia at the London Coliseum marking a return one of his first returns since leaving the Royal Ballet.
Interviewer: John Wilson
radio 4 sergei polunin interview
Sergei Polunin as Frantz and Kristina Shapran as Swanilda in the Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet’s production of Roland Petit’s Coppelia at the London Coliseum.
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/PamBoehmeSi… 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.
“The Cheek Of It” A Telegraph article from 2012

“The Cheek Of It” A Telegraph article from 2012

Sergei Polunin: the ballet cheek of it

The shock departure of the Royal Ballet’s young star has rocked the company.

cheek of it
‘I got some sick tattoos’: Sergei Polunin, pictured in ‘Rhapsody’ at the Royal Opera House  Photo: Robbie Jack

Where were you when you heard that Sergei Polunin had left the Royal Ballet? I was just about to take my seat at a studio performance at Covent Garden where London’s balletomanes were huddled miserably in the aisles, open-mouthed with dismay at the news. His colleagues were equally nonplussed – “he was fine yesterday”, said one.

Reports of a ballet world “in shock” might sound like overkill – nobody died, for heaven’s sake – but the sudden loss of this extraordinary young star was proving hard to bear and almost impossible to fathom. Why on earth was he leaving? Where would he go? And (the show must go on, after all) who could they possibly cast in his place?

Polunin’s unprecedentedly abrupt departure was front-page news, but the 22-year-old star has long been food for headlines. His teenage debut as the snorting, tiger-slaying hero in the 1877 melodrama La Bayadère prompted comparisons with the young Rudolf Nureyev and, for once, the hype was justified: the same supercharged classicism; the same haughty sensuality; the same instinctive mastery of stagecraft.

Polunin’s silky technique, drill-bit pirouettes and cat-like jump were a credit to his schooling, but his most exceptional qualities were not learnt in the studio. Even at 19, he knew how to infuse every step with motive force and give a gesture dramatic weight. Ballet’s princes spend a surprising amount of time standing about shooting their cuffs and generally looking spare but Polunin has only to tilt his chin or wave an imperious hand to take total command of the stage. Nobody taught him how to do that (if they knew the formula, they’d bottle it).

Young Royal Ballet soloists often bemoan the years wasted while they blush unseen in the chorus but Sergei Polunin’s prodigious talent meant he was fast-tracked through the ranks. At only 19, he became Covent Garden’s youngest-ever male principal dancer and began systematically working his way through the great roles of the repertoire – to universally ecstatic reviews.

Adulation, rapid promotion and regular crowds at Floral Street’s stage door could easily turn a young dancer’s head and result in preening, self-regarding performances, but if Polunin was vain he didn’t let it show on stage. He never consciously stole a scene and soon proved a considerate and versatile partner. In the five short years since his graduation he has been paired successfully with almost all of the Royal’s female stars – Lauren Cuthbertson, Sarah Lamb, Alina Cojocaru – but the most exciting match was made last October with the Spanish dancer Tamara Rojo in Marguerite and Armand.

The one-act piece had been tailor-made for Margot Fonteyn and gorgeous, pouting new arrival Rudolf Nureyev by Frederick Ashton in 1963 but Rojo and Polunin made the ballet their own. Rojo (who ought to know) is unstinting in praise of her new partner. “Dancing Marguerite and Armand with Sergei was one of the most wonderful experiences of my career,” she told me yesterday. “He is a truly special man and I really hope I get to share the stage with him again.”

Her audience felt the same way, electrified by the urgency and naturalism of the two stars; many happy hours were spent in games of Fantasy Ballet, re-casting every revival with this thrilling new partnership. Their admirers hungrily scoured the schedules and crowded the blogosphere: when would the pair be dancing next?

It looks as if we’ll all have a long wait. Tuesday’s resignation was “with immediate effect” and he will dance none of his scheduled debuts: no Oberon; no Romeo; no La Sylphide; no A Month in the Country. This cruelly abrupt departure leaves a lot of disappointed ticket holders (his dates were all completely sold out) although it remains to be seen whether London’s well-bred ballet-goers will be moved to stamp or boo when he takes his bow at a boy’s own ballet gala, Men in Motion, at Sadler’s Wells tomorrow night, directed by Ivan Putrov, who also left the Royal Ballet in less than ideal circumstances.

A riot at the Wells is unlikely. For the moment the mood of the fans is one of baffled disappointment (“Now I know how it felt when The Beatles split up,” wailed one), all struggling to comprehend how anyone blessed (or burdened?) with such a unique talent and given every opportunity to nourish it should cut and run with so little consideration for his teachers, his fans or even his own career. He had the Covent Garden repertoire in his pocket, the ballet world at his feet – what the hell happened?

Dame Monica Mason, licking her wounds at the loss of her biggest star during her final season as the Royal Ballet’s director, is refusing any comment beyond a rather terse press release. Polunin himself is not taking calls and even his inane tweets (“I got some sick tattoos”) have dried up. It’s tempting to look to his rags-to-(relative) riches background for answers but it’s a career path that many performers share.

Born in the small town of Kherson in the Ukraine, the young Polunin started out as a gymnast, but the switch to ballet (aged eight) led to an audition with the Kiev State Ballet school and a move to the big city, where he shared a one-room apartment with his mother (who has yet to see him dance professionally). A video audition led to a sponsored place at the Royal Ballet School followed by a job with the company and a new life in London.

Was it all simply a case of too much too young? He’s clearly a complicated and contradictory character. He wanted every role he could get, then complained of feeling “constricted”, demanding to be released for lucrative guest appearances (“that is where you make good money”). Polunin is hardly the first dancer to want to make the most of their golden years. If this was the problem, it’s a pity he and Monica Mason weren’t able to thrash out a compromise before it came to this.

And where will he go? He was hinting at New Year that 2012 would be “controversial” and he’s unlikely to have made such a major decision on a whim but, if there is a grand plan, it was still unvoiced 24 hours after the shock announcement. First thoughts as we stood chattering in Covent Garden’s basement studio were that he might have been lured to St Petersburg’s Mikhailovsky ballet. The company, bankrolled by fruit magnate Vladimir Kekhman (alias “Mr Bananas”), recently poached the Bolshoi’s star couple Vladimir Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova for vast sums and a flexible contract, but it seems hard to believe that a hip Ivy-goer like Polunin would want to retreat back East. The word on the street (well, Floral Street, anyway) is that he may be thinking of dancing for American Ballet Theatre – not exactly a step up.

At the time of writing the young star was holed up in darkest Holloway, in the bedroom above the tattoo parlour he co-owns. Google “Sergei Polunin” and the word “tattoo” comes third in the list of suggestions. There is a school of thought which insists that the tattoo count is in inverse proportion to IQ. Sergei Polunin has lots of tattoos (all masked at vast expense by the make-up department).

Dermal decoration is pretty rare in the ballet world, so much so that one company insider mistook the bear claw “scar” that runs across his chest for a horrific instance of “self-harming” – which I suppose it is, in a way. The giant crucifix tattoo on that beautifully muscled forearm is hardly the smartest choice for a man whose body is on constant display (there’s a lot more topless ballet than you’d think). Most ballet dancers don’t even dare sunbathe in case it’s wrong for a role. My spies tell me the latest acquisition, done by a rather confused Russian tattooist, reads: “I am hwo I am” (let’s hope he got a discount).

And how will the Royal Ballet manage without him? Don’t let the “Dream turns to nightmare” headlines depress you too much. Re-assigning his performances is the least of the Royal Ballet’s worries. Dancers come and go, injuries happen, understudies rejoice. Steven McRae will dance Polunin’s Oberons as well as his own in The Dream (very nice, too) and hungry young soloists will be jumping a little higher and landing a little neater in morning class, buoyed up by that ill wind.

Meanwhile, as the dust settles, a fellow critic assures us that it’s “no great loss”. Perhaps. But when I look at those pictures and re-run those ballets in my mind’s eye, it feels like a very great loss indeed.

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.
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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

 

Prince Of Ballet, Sergei Polunin

Prince Of Ballet, Sergei Polunin

For EuroNews

by Elena Karaeva   25/10/2016

Sergei Polunin picked up the crown of the ballet prince many years after she fell out of the weakening hands of the dying Nureyev. Like the legendary defector, completely changing the classical ballet for several decades ahead, Polunin reluctantly fits into the framework of the troupe and creative decisions that do not belong to him. Gifted with plasticity and extraordinary physical strength (he was engaged in gymnastics before deciding to devote himself entirely to the art of Terpsichore), at the height of his career, he decided to try himself in an adjacent theatrical art and become an actor.

“It seems to me that it makes sense to try myself in different spheres of art. Including, and then to be more precise in the work, when you are working on the creation of new choreography. ”

Voir l'image sur Twitter

This clip, a collaboration of Polunin and the famous photographer David Lachapelle, became the record holder in the number of views of a ballet composition.

“I wanted to make a video for this composition of Hozier. I wanted to go to Hollywood to study there in an acting school. It was very difficult for me, I cried almost half a day. I was completely emotionally wrung out, at the limit of physical strength.”

There is a documentary film dedicated to Polunin called “Dancer”.  Its main theme is Polunin’s rebellion against the rules adopted in today’s ballet.

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“In a large company, you at the very best a repeat someone written before you. This is the maximum for which so strangely understood creativity is calculated today. Dancers are reduced to props, to costumes, to scenery. I do not want to put up with this any longer. And I’m talking about it directly and openly.”

Yuri Soloviev, the real-life dancer Sergei will reportedly portray in “White Crow”

Yuri Soloviev, the real-life dancer Sergei will reportedly portray in “White Crow”

The following is a brief biography of the real-life dancer Sergei Polunin will reportedly be portraying in the upcoming film “White Crow,” a bio pic about Rudolf Nureyev.

Yuri Soloviev

The mention of the name of Yuri Soloviev arouses great excitement from those who were fortunate enough to see him on stage.  He was a premier danseur of the Kirov Ballet.  A contemporary of Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov, Yuri partnered Natalia MakarovaAlla Sizova, among others.

Yuri Vladimirovich Soloviev was born in Leningrad on August 10, 1940. He entered the Vaganova Choreographic School at the age of 9 in his hometown in 1949. His talent was recognised very early on at the school.

He was in the same graduating class at the Vaganova Academy as Rudolf Nureyev. Initially, Soloviev joined the Kirov as a corps member but quickly rose to the rank of soloist. He was Rudolf Nureyev’s roommate during the company’s tour to Paris when that dancer defected to the west during which Soloviev also received rave reviews from the French and British dance critics. In later years Nureyev would often express admiration for Soloviev’s dancing, despite their rivalry.

Soloviev made his debut at the Kirov in the pas de trois from Swan Lake (with Alla Sizova and Natalia Makarova) at a pregraduate performance. Following his performance of the Bluebird pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty at his graduation in 1958, which caused a sensation and would remain of one his finest achievements, he was immediately accepted into the Kirov Theatre.

He was known as Cosmic Yuri by Western and Soviet audiences for his soaring leaps and Slavic-featured resemblance to Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. He was compared to Vaslav Nijinsky for his technique, particularly his elevation. In 1961 and 1964, he toured the US and Europe with the Kirov Ballet. His most famous roles were the Bluebird and Prince in The Sleeping Beauty and Solor in La Bayadère. He also originated several roles in new ballets including “Icarus” in the ballet of the same name.

Yuri Soloviev’s mastery was genuinely unique. He had perhaps the most remarkable elevation of any dancer of his generation, but more than the sheer height of these flights, they were combined with a softness, clarity, and ballon seemingly defying gravity.  There seemed to be no technical difficulty he was unable to master completely. Soloviev was a sensitive and gifted actor, a master of understatement and taste. 

Fortunately his dancing is well preserved on film. There are many archive films of his work in Russia but to most people he will be familiar in the film of The Sleeping Beauty with Alla Sizova, which provides an excellent record of his dance accomplishments, the delicacy of his manner, and a wonderful souvenir of a great ballet partnership.

***STOP***SPOILERS BELOW***  DO NOT READ THE REST IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW ANYTHING UNTIL THE FILM COMES OUT.

 

 

In 1963 he was awarded the Nijinsky Prize by the Paris Academy of Dance. He was a Gold Medal winner at the Paris International Dance Competition in 1965, and was made a People’s Artist of the USSR in 1973. Despite considerable pressure from the KGB and Kirov management, Soloviev never joined the Communist Party.

He was an intensely private and reserved individual. After Nureyev defected, the pressure on Yuri escalated.  He was interrogated by the Soviet authorities numerous times as they figured that he had information concerning the exact circumstances of the defection.

On January 12, 1977 he was found dead from a shotgun wound to his head, presumably self-inflicted. His death, ruled a suicide, devastated his colleagues at the Kirov. He was survived by his wife, ballerina Tatiana Legat and their daughter, dancer Elena Solovieva.

 




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