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Lucky Ballerinas

Lucky Ballerinas

Lucky ballerinas? Or, are they…

Brief bit of ballet background

Ballet originated in the early 1600’s. For the first 75 years or so, it was Men Only. Women weren’t allowed. If a role called for a female, it was danced by a man.

Once accepted, however, the woman quickly became the star of the ballet, and thus, the ballerina was born. A male dancer struts his stuff in a quick solo variation in most classical ballets, but, when it comes to the pas de deux (steps for two), he is relegated to more of a supporting role. His main purpose becomes to assist his tutu-clad other half. That is… hoisting her high into the air, toting her about the stage, spinning her around on pointe, and in general, making her look good. Sometimes so much so, that I recall once hearing a male dancer refer to himself as “scenery.”

Along comes Sergei

From Russia to the Ukraine to London, Sergei Polunin has partnered some of the most celebrated ballerinas. Natalia Osipova, Svetlana Zakharova, and Tamara Rojo to name just a few. While all the world might wish to dance with him, these women are a few of the lucky ones who do. Although… can a ballerina be considered lucky if the onlookers can’t take their eyes off of HIM?? It’s as if the ballerinas are dancing back up! Audiences, for a change, have their eyes glued to Sergei while a ballerina flitters about him, reduced to a mere distraction. Sergei Polunin is the man who makes ballerinas disappear.


Disclaimer: This little excursion into ballet history is not meant to cast dispersions on any of the talented and hardworking women ballet dancers in the world today. The idea is to point out, with a little tongue-in-cheek, just how remarkable Sergei Polunin is.

Videos

The featured videos in this entry are photo montages of Sergei Polunin partnering several different ballerinas in some of ballet’s most passionate pas de deux. Presented with him are some of his “fortunate” ballerinas.

Interesting Bit Of Trivia

The first of the two videos below was deemed “so hot” that the YouTube bots banned it. The ruling was overturned once human eyes addressed the issue and agreed that the performers did, in fact have on tights, and were not naked.

“Sergei And The Ballerinas”
“Entrelacé”
Being Spartacus

Being Spartacus

Spartacus, a ballet in three acts by Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian, is known for its lively rhythms and strong energy. It was premiered by the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1956, and its revised form was debuted in 1968 by the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow.

Watch the video

In the video below, Sergei Polunin is featured as Spartacus. We also see him as Crassus, the anti-hero, whom he often portrays equally as well.


Becoming Spartacus

The role of Spartacus in the ballet of the same name, is extremely demanding. It requires a very strong and capable ballet dancer. He must have a wide dramatic range, exceptional ballon (leaping ability) and be a top-tier athlete. It can be difficult for a dancer to do justice to the role. Sergei Polunin excels at it. Sergei becomes Spartacus. His physical attributes and talents, along with his ability to completely immerse himself emotionally in a role, make him a stellar choice.

How the story came to be

The story of Khachaturian’s ballet (with libretto by Yuri Grigorovich) was derived from a book by Raffaello Giovagnolli that details events from an historical Roman slave revolt. Its leader, Spartacus, was a Thracian warrior who had been captured in battle. The rebellion’s high point was its seizure of Mount Vesuvius as a stronghold. After two years of fighting, the rebellion was finally put down by Marcus Licinius Crassus, and the warrior Spartacus fell in battle.

Synopsis of the ballet

Act I

Invasion
The military machine of imperial Rome, led by Crassus, wages a cruel campaign of conquest, destroying everything in its path. Among the chained prisoners, who are doomed to captivity, are man and wife, Spartacus and Phrygia.

Spartacus’s Monologue.
Spartacus is in despair. Born a free man, he is now a prisoner in chains.

The Human Market
Dealers separate the men and women prisoners for sale to rich Romans. Spartacus is parted from Phrygia.

Phrygia’s Monologue
Phrygia is overcome with grief. She thinks with horror of the terrifying ordeals that lie ahead of her.

Crassus’s Palace
Mimes & courtesans entertain the guests, making fun of Phrygia, Crassus’s new conquest. Aegina, a favorite concubine of Crassus, draws Crassus into a frenzied, bacchanalian dance. Dizzy with wine & passion, Crassus demands a spectacle. Two gladiators are to fight to the end in helmets with closed visors (without seeing each other). The victor’s helmet is removed. It is Spartacus.

Spartacus’s Monologue
Against his will, Spartacus has been forced to fatally defeat a fellow armsman. His despair develops into anger & protest. He will no longer tolerate captivity. He vows to win back his freedom.

The Gladiators’ Barracks
Spartacus incites the gladiators to revolt. They swear an oath of loyalty to him and they break out of the barracks to freedom.

Act II

The Appian Way
Having broken out of their captivity and finding themselves on Appian Way, surrounded by shepherds, Spartacus’s followers call the latter to join the uprising. They proclaim Spartacus as their leader.

Spartacus’s Monologue
The thought of Phrygia’s fate as Casuss’s conquest gives Spartacus no peace. He is haunted by memories of his wife whom he thinks of day & night.

Crasuss’s Villa
His search for Phrygia leads Spartacus to Crassus’s villa. The two lovers are overjoyed at their reunion. But, due to the arrival of a procession of patricians, led by Aegina, they are forced to hide.

Aegina’s Monologue
Aegina has long dreamed of seducing and gaining power over Crassus. Her goal is to win him and thereby gain legal admittance to the world of the Roman nobility.

Feast at Crasuss’s Villa
Crassus celebrates his victories. The patricians sing his praises. The festivities are cut short by an alarming piece of news: Spartacus and his men have all but surrounded the villa. The panic-stricken guests disperse. Crassus and Aegina are also forced to flee. Spartacus breaks into the villa.

Spartacus’s Monologue
He is elated and filled with faith that the uprising will be successful.

Spartacus’s Victory
Spartacus’s men have taken Crassus prisoner and want to dispose of him. Spartacus is not bent on revenge and suggests that they should engage in single-handed combat. Crassus accepts the challenge and suffers defeat when Spartacus knocks the sword out of his hand. Crassus makes ready demonstratively to meet his end, but Spartacus, with a gesture of contempt, lets him go. That all shall know of Crassus’s dishonor is punishment enough. The jubilant insurgents praise the victory of Spartacus.

Act III

Crasuss Takes His Revenge
Crassus is tormented by his disgrace. Fanning his hurt pride, Aegina calls on him to take his revenge. The only way forward, she chides, is to defeat the insurgents. Crassus summons his legions. Aegina sees him off to battle.

Aegina’s Monologue
Spartacus is Aegina’s enemy too. The defeat of Crassus will be her downfall. Aegina devises a plan. She will sew dissension in Spartacus’s encampment.

Spartacus’s Encampment.
Spartacus & Phrygia are happy to be together. Then suddenly, his military commanders bring the news that Crassus is on the move with a large army. Spartacus decides to give battle. Overcome by cowardice, some of his warriors (who were simple shepherds a short time ago) desert their leader.

Dissension
Aegina infiltrates the ranks of the defectors. Together with her fellow courtesans she seduces the men with wine and dance. As a result, the men throw all caution to the winds and she convinces them to return to Spartacus’ camp. Having successfully sprung her trap, Aegina hands them all over to Crassus.

Spartacus’s Monologue
Crassus is consumed by the wish for revenge. Spartacus shall pay for the humiliation that he, Crassus, was forced to undergo.

The Last Battle
Surrounded by the Roman legions, Spartacus’s devoted friends perish in unequal combat. Spartacus fights on fearlessly right up to the bitter end but, closing in on the wounded hero, the Roman soldiers crucify him on their spears.

Requiem
Phrygia retrieves Spartacus’s body. She mourns her beloved. She is inconsolable. Raising her arms, Phrygia appeals to the heavens that the memory of Spartacus live forever.


Delicate Dominance, The Hands of Sergei Polunin

Delicate Dominance, The Hands of Sergei Polunin

Delicate Dominance… Sergei’s hands, strong as steel yet tenderly graceful. Able to propel a ballerina skyward, yet his port de bras is soft beyond compare. Such stunning “carriage of the arms” he looks more like a Da Vinci sculpture than flesh and blood. Yet, he is able to move one to tears with a gesture so exquisitely human, it can break your heart.

Music: “Nothing” by Kai Engel with permission via the Free Music Archive under an Attribution License.


About Sergei…

Sergei Polunin is a Ukrainian ballet dancer. Famous for his “once every hundred years” talent, he has incredulous elevation and impeccable technique. From an early age, he displayed glorious dramatic range. Home videos of him as a tiny boy improvising to Pavarotti are very foretelling. At age 20, he became the Royal Ballet’s youngest ever principal dancer.

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

Sergei is a much sought after model and actor. Fashion designers love his breathtaking physique and brooding good looks. He has garnered only positive reviews for his acting. His appearances include Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the Orient Express, the biographical documentary Dancer, The White Crow, and Red Sparrow.

If you enjoyed this, please consider visiting my fan site at https://sergeipoluningracefulbeast.com or my blog at https://pamboehmesimon.com for additional videos and more.

This is a ballet | балет iMovie by Pam Boehme Simon.
Thank you for watching.

Sergei Surprises Guests

Sergei Surprises Guests

Sergei surprises guests? Stuns would be more like it… Unbeknownst to the host of bigwigs, celebrities, and other guests at a Milan’s 2016 Fashion Week show, Sergei Polunin / Сергей Полунин was about to bring down the house.

Beauty, power, angst… it was glorious.


Living, breathing, moving sculpture…

About Sergei

Sergei Polunin was the dancer who starred in Hozier’s viral video, “Take Me To Church” but his fame is far greater than just that. One day, he will be legendary. Sergei Polunin is a Ukrainian ballet dancer. Famous for his “once every hundred years” talent, he has incredulous elevation and impeccable technique.

From an early age, he displayed glorious dramatic range. Home videos of him as a tiny boy improvising to Pavarotti are very foretelling. At age 20, he became the Royal Ballet’s youngest ever principal dancer.

Ballet gained an unprecedented new awareness when he danced in Hozier’s viral video ”Take Me To Church.” People who never would have never paid any attention to ballet began to watch the tattooed phenom. He is generally attributed with bringing ballet to the modern common man.

Classical, yet cutting edge, Sergei starred in Diesel’s “Make Love Not Walls” campaign and has put his mark on many other promotions. Sergei is a much sought after model and actor. Fashion designers love his breathtaking physique and brooding good looks.

He has garnered only positive reviews for his acting. His appearances include Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the Orient Express, the biographical documentary Dancer, The White Crow, and Red Sparrow.

If you enjoyed this, please consider visiting my fan site at https://sergeipoluningracefulbeast.com or my blog at https://pamboehmesimon.com for additional videos and more.

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

Thank you for watching.

Huge Ballet Jumps!

Huge Ballet Jumps!

Huge ballet jumps is right. This is a video featuring Sergei Polunin in “Le Corsaire” and showcasing his incredible elevation and incredulous ballet leaps. His “signature” leap, the 540 Rivoltade is nothing short of spectacular.

Scroll down for video.

Watch “Huge Ballet Jumps! here.

This video originally posted in November 2017 and currently has almost 490,000 views. It has been archived here in an effort to preserve and keep available treasured footage of this future dance legend.


About Sergei

Sergei Polunin is a Ukrainian ballet dancer. Famous for his “once every hundred years” talent, he has incredulous elevation and impeccable technique. From an early age, he displayed glorious dramatic range. Home videos of him as a tiny boy improvising to Pavarotti are very foretelling. At age 19, he became the Royal Ballet’s youngest ever principal dancer.

Ballet gained an unprecedented new awareness when he danced in Hozier’s viral video ”Take Me To Church.” People who never would have never paid any attention to ballet began to watch the tattooed phenom. He is generally attributed with bringing ballet to the modern common man.

Classical, yet cutting edge, Sergei starred in Diesel’s “Make Love Not Walls” campaign and has put his mark on many other promotions. Sergei is a much sought after model and actor. Fashion designers love his breathtaking physique and brooding good looks.

He has garnered only positive reviews for his acting. His appearances include Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the Orient Express, the biographical documentary Dancer, The White Crow, and Red Sparrow.


For additional videos and more, please visit my blog at https://pamboehmesimon.com

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

Thank you for watching.

If You Fall, I Will Catch You

If You Fall, I Will Catch You

If you fall I will catch you… a beautiful sentiment, a beautiful promise. What more can two people do for each other than to simply be there.

This video was created in January 2018 by Pam Boehme Simon. In my ongoing effort to catalog and preserve all things “Sergei” it is being archived here for all to enjoy.


“If You Fall, I Will Catch You” starring Sergei Polunin and ballerina Natalia Osipova… ballet superstars, and at one time, real life companions.


Choreography: “Silent Echo” by Russell Maliphant

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

Who Is Sergei?

Sergei Polunin is a Ukrainian ballet dancer. Famous for his “once every hundred years” talent, he has incredulous elevation and impeccable technique. From an early age, he displayed glorious dramatic range. Home videos of him as a tiny boy improvising to Pavarotti are very foretelling. At age 19, he became the Royal Ballet’s youngest ever principal dancer.

Ballet gained an unprecedented new awareness when he danced in Hozier’s viral video ”Take Me To Church.” People who never would have never paid any attention to ballet began to watch. He is generally attributed with bringing ballet to the modern common man.

Classical, yet cutting edge, Sergei starred in Diesel’s “Make Love Not Walls” campaign and has put his mark on many other promotions. Sergei is a much sought after model and actor. Fashion designers love his breathtaking physique and brooding good looks.

He has garnered only positive reviews for his acting. His appearances include Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the Orient Express, the biographical documentary Dancer, The White Crow, and Red Sparrow.

If you enjoyed this video…

Please bookmark my fan site at https://sergeipoluningracefulbeast.com or visit my blog at https://pamboehmesimon.com  for additional videos and much more.

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

Thank you for watching.

His Nature

His Nature

“A man’s power to connect his thought with its proper symbol, and so to utter it, depends on the simplicity of his character, that is, upon his love of truth, and his desire to communicate it without loss.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

“His Nature” Sergei Polunin

Music: “Nature Boy” performed by Aurora, written in 1947 by Eden Ahbez

Visit AURORA’s website: http://po.st/AURORAWeb

Dancer: Sergei Polunin

Sergei Polunin is a Ukrainian ballet dancer. Famous for his “once every hundred years” talent, he has incredulous elevation and impeccable technique.

From an early age, he displayed glorious dramatic range. Home videos of him as a tiny boy improvising to Pavarotti are very foretelling. At age 20, he became the Royal Ballet’s youngest ever principal dancer.

Ballet gained an unprecedented new awareness when he danced in Hozier’s viral video ”Take Me To Church.” People who never would have never paid any attention to ballet began to watch the tattooed phenom. He is generally attributed with bringing ballet to the modern common man.

Classical, yet cutting edge, Sergei starred in Diesel’s “Make Love Not Walls” campaign and has put his mark on many other promotions. Sergei is a much sought after model and actor. Fashion designers love his breathtaking physique and brooding good looks. He has garnered only positive reviews for his acting. His appearances include Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the Orient Express, the biographical documentary Dancer, The White Crow, and Red Sparrow.

If you enjoyed this, please consider subscribing to my Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/PamBoehmeSimon and “like” my playlist “Sergei Polunin, Graceful Beast” as well.

For additional videos and more, visit my fan site at https://sergeipoluningracefulbeast.com or my blog at https://pamboehmesimon.com

This is a ballet | балет iMovie by Pam Boehme Simon. Thank you for watching.

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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Pam Finally Sees Sergei Dance

Pam Finally Sees Sergei Dance

After years of editing pixels, cutting music, creating videos, Pam Boehme Simon gets to see him in real life. Pam finally sees Sergei dance!

Pam Finally Sees Sergei Dance

 

I hesitate to start writing anything at all, as no mere words will do justice.

But I’m gonna try.

First, the trip there.  Sacramento, California is in no way shape or form close to where I live.  I live two hours east of Houston in a tiny town called Orange.  We are the last town in Texas on Interstate 10 before you cross the border into Louisiana.  In a straight line, it’s 1684 miles or 2709 kilometers from Orange to Sacramento.  My trip there involved about 2 hours drive time, 3 airports, 4 hours layover time, and 10 hours flight time.  However, totally worth it.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

I went to Sacramento for no other reason than to see Sergei dance, so after arriving I pretty much sat in my hotel room waiting…

I arrived at the Crest Theater in downtown Sacramento a little more than an hour early.  The theater is like out of a dream!  Fantastical, whimsical, amazing!  From the tiny little ticket booth out front to the “blue sky” ceiling in the main space… oh my.  I could not imagine a more perfect venue for what was to come.   Built in 1948 by Fox West Coast Theatres, it opened July 7, 1949.  Mostly still original, the highly stylized, art deco theater is host to concerts, Red Carpet movie premieres, comedy shows, private events and more.  At some point in time, the Crest was bought by Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft.  In 1996 they sold it to Gloria León who still owns it today.  It was designated “Historic” in 2010.

Once near my seat, I met Kathleen, a fellow Sergei fan.  It was great to meet another supporter!  Our seats were near each other front to back.  I also knew that fan “Evil DelBono” would be there as well.  She had told me earlier that she had already purchased tickets to see Estas Tonne BEFORE even knowing Sergei would be there!  She needless to say was thrilled when his guest appearance was announced.  We did not meet, but I know she was there.  =)

So, the show starts.  Estas Tonne, was incredible.  I admit never hearing of him before ever, but his music and talent were astounding.  We were told we would be going on a “journey” and we certainly were.  The music was mesmerizing.  I couldn’t help but close my eyes and watch the pictures conjured up in the darkness behind my eyelids.  THANK GOODNESS for Kathleen, who turned back and whispered me back to awareness just as Sergei was stepping onto the stage!

My first glimpse of Sergei in real life, onstage…

First thought that entered my head, silly enough:

“I’ve joked before about being jealous of others who were on the same continent as Sergei, and now I’m actually in the same room.  I’M ACTUALLY IN THE SAME ROOM.”

He stepped lightly and silently onto the stage, coming up from steps on stage right.  Tonne’s music was quiet and gentle, and Sergei moved accordingly.  He was beautiful.  Like a being somewhere above “human” in the movement hierarchy… he was delicate and precise, yet, with less effort than a sigh, he would suddenly achieve light speed and launch himself into the stratosphere like we know only he can.  Then, he would touch back down to earth as softly as the sun puddles on the floor.  I actually only heard him make an audible noise landing from a jump once.  It was during a silent moment of the guitar music, and the “thump, thump” of Sergei’s feet were in perfect time with the music.  Tonne’s fingers stilled on the strings briefly, and Sergei’s feet finished the measure perfectly.  “Thump, thump.”  To control a landing so musically… wow.

A few more thoughts that drifted through my head as I watched Sergei dance:

“Graceful is an understatement.”

“How does he pull such power out of nowhere??!?”

“He doesn’t make shapes, he passes through them.”

“He dances completely inside himself, yet he is inside out… so we see everything (this one seems to makes no sense but I couldn’t find another way to put it lol).”

Sergei appeared three times.  The first two, clad all in black, and the third time, he changed into a simple white tee shirt.  I could see a story in my mind.  He took us from tentative searching and careful exploring, wondering and wandering, to finally confident contentment, powerful joy, and  brilliant happiness.  When he moved, there was nothing else in the room.  Just Sergei.  Even Tonne watched Sergei as he danced about him on the stage.

Then, there was the energy.  Sergei had set the room on fire.  Not a harsh, red, destructive fire… but a dazzling, white, cleansing fire.  One that burned without burning.  THIS is how he inspires!  He puts forth an energy that shoots like a laser beam into your mind, heart, and soul.  Inspiration.  Like a blinding white light that hits you so hard you feel the percussion of it.  Stunning, yet painless.  Primal, yet it propels you to a more complex plane of consciousness.

It makes…

It makes you WANT TO.

 

I will never be the same.

Thank you Sergei.

 

Video:  Sergei’s first of three times onstage (check back, I will add the others).

Another Glowing Review! Sergei’s 2013 Mayerling

Another Glowing Review! Sergei’s 2013 Mayerling

Another glowing review of Sergei as the tragic Crown Prince Rudolf!  The ballet “Mayerling” is based on the horrific real life story of the Mayerling incident.  This review is from The Arts Desk in Moscow.

theartsdesk in Moscow: Sergei Polunin triumphs in Mayerling

Royal Ballet rebel leaves Russians numb as MacMillan finally reaches them

another glowing review
Never a “skull” moment as Sergei Polunin’s Rudolf terrorises his wife Stephanie (Anastasia Limenko) Photo: Oleg Chernous/Stanislavsky Theatre

Quite simply, the performance was one of those rarest of events in the theatre that will be talked about for generations – the Russian premiere of Kenneth MacMillan’s Mayerling, with the former Royal Ballet star Sergei Polunin making his debut as Crown Prince Rudolf.

This has been a “must-see” evening since the minute it was announced by Moscow’s Stanislavsky Ballet not only with Polunin now having rock-star status in Russia, but also for MacMillan’s choreography which is not found in any other Russian theatre. Extra chairs were put in, people were even sitting in the aisles. The full run of performances has long been sold out.

So I’ll begin with Polunin: though it will be impossible to do justice to what he showed us on stage. He started his journey as a troubled young man from the very beginning: after the arrogance of the wedding proceedings, his Rudolf emerged from the crowd and started his first solo with such fluidity that the change was imperceptible. In and out of the balletic gestures as he moved around the crowd, gradually revealing the reality of his circumstances: contempt for the courtiers, chilly distance from his father, his expectation still to have the pick of the women (married or not) and his terrible ache for his unresponsive mother.

These days, one expects a dancer to have the physique and technique to cope with Rudolf, one of the toughest roles for a male dancer; but merely doing the pyrotechnics simply isn’t good enough. Polunin is one of the most stunning technical dancers you could ask for, prodigiously talented with an innate physical beauty and all the proportions that classical ballet could lust after – but with his Rudolf, we discovered he’s also a highly intelligent, sensitive and dramatic performer.

yet another glowing review
Polunin as Crown Prince Rudolf. Photo: M. Logvinov

Moreover, he brought his inner soul to the performance, finely judging the disintegration of this Prince of the Hapsburg Empire, understanding that he had to take us with him through his journey on stage, to develop the tragedy organically, not give it away too soon – and never to wreck the nuances with grand guignol. And Polunin is only 23.

With good casting with MacMillan you will never see the same ballet twice; individual interpretation is paramount, and every dancer is required to find their inner reason for being the character they play. MacMillan himself wanted the audience to forget they were watching dancers and to be enveloped in the drama.

The Stanislavsky company is absolutely tailor-made for his work, with its roots in the legendary Moscow Arts Theatre, created way back in 1887 by theatre revolutionaries Konstantin Stanislavsky and his colleague Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, for a new kind of work which abandoned the hackneyed classical traditions to explore new ways with drama. The Stanislavsky has “dancing drama actors” – “method” acting translated into the ballet so the dancers live their roles and are the foremost contributors to create the drama.

another glowing review
Rudolf (Polunin) and Countess Larisch (Anastasia Pershenkova). Photo: M. Logvinov

So Polunin’s Rudolf evolves in a series of relationships and encounters: each of Rudolf’s ladies in turn firing on some pretty spectacular voltage as they relate to him. Anastasia Pershenkova’s Countess Larisch emerged as a really complex part of the Rudolf story: from a sizzling sexy seductress in Act 1, she became more than his ex-mistress and his procuress; we also saw her as the only one who has come to care for him as the person he is under all the bravado. 

As the Empress, Natalia Krapivina seriously changed the temperature from sunny dancing with her ladies to produce an arctic imperial distance from Rudolf in the scene in her closet. From which he could go on to his cruel and violent encounter with his new wife Stephanie, danced by Anastasia Limenko (only 18 months out of ballet school), both of them taking the pas de deux to a breathtaking edge of physicality. People looked pretty stunned going into the first intermission.

The one problematic element of Mayerling for me has always been John Lanchbery’s orchestration of Liszt, which all too often I’ve heard blasting over the top into the seriously vulgar. But I heard a quite different score with Anton Grishanin’s conducting. Nuances were shaded, climaxes tailored to what was happening on stage in the drama – and the tempi were fabulously alive.

another glowing review
Act 1 Ensemble in Moscow’s remake of the Georgiadis designs. Photo: M. Logvinov/Stanislavsky Theatre

Two other points on ensemble: the Stanislavsky Theatre presents both opera and ballet, but the orchestra doesn’t think it’s slumming for the ballet.  It too is signed up to the Stanislavsky ethos. I saw players watching as much as they could of the stage, where in other places they might only be reading car magazines while counting the rests before their next entry.

In the crowd scenes – particularly the Tavern scene at the start of Act 2 – a great deal of the electricity on stage emanated from stunning dancing from senior dancers in the company. Principals and soloists, who were eager to be part of the MacMillan experience, even down to playing whores and potboys. Apparently among the four Hungarian officers there were three Siegfrieds and two Albrechts, matching Polunin’s technical physicality. Never has the Mephisto Waltz in the tavern scene in Act 2 fizzed so joyously.

another glowing review
Anna Ol and Polunin. Photo: M. Logvinov

Then, after Maria Vetsera’s arrival in Rudolf’s bedroom, Polunin found ever more to show us of Rudolf’s deepest anguish.  His physical and mental disintegration in those series of extreme pas de deux. Anna Ol matching him all the way, obviously so well supported by and confident in his partnering that we were completely sucked into the vortex. 

At his final solo, Polunin gave us a terrible, futile, emptiness. How could it be possible to dance a nothingness?

A member of the audience told me that after Act 1, she was in a state of high tension and couldn’t believe that it could rack up more in Act 2. And yet again in Act 3 so that by the end she was choked by the experience. At the Royal Opera we’re used to wild bravoing erupting before the final drumbeat.  The Russian audience, more considered, went into their slow and measured handclap for 15 minutes.

Is this report way over the top? Polunin, by every standard, produced a performance that was superlative, even though Friday night was his first stab at dancing Rudolf and he is still only 23. Part of the back story is that since his sad departure from the Royal Ballet a year ago, he’s been mentored by Igor Zelensky, the Stanislavsky’s artistic director and one of the greatest dancers of recent times. With this kind of backing Polunin should continue to astonish us in the future.

Polunin however, is only one of the Rudolfs in the company. Igor Zelensky himself makes his debut in the role, and on the second night the theatre was again packed for the Stanislavsky’s star dancer Georgi Smilevski, with Natalia Somova as Stephanie, Erica Mirkitcheva as Larisch and Ksenia Shertsova as Maria Vetsera.

Smilevski’s was perhaps a slower descent to hell, his relationship with his mother reading as bitter, but his anger colder, his depravity more ruthless. Ksenia Shertsova’s Maria Vetsera was also chilling; we saw she knew exactly what he liked to do with skulls and guns and played him at his own game. From there on the two were on an unstoppable descent, the particularly Russian timbre of the brass section screaming an accompaniment.

another glowing review
Empress Elizabeth (Natalia Krapivina) with Mikhail Pukhov as her lover Bay Middleton. Photo: M. Logvinov

Rudolf’s tragedy is played in the context of a vast canvas: the decadence of the Hapsburg Court, intrigue, infidelity, betrayals, jockeying for advancement. Courtiers spying, denouncing, women available sexually, two-faced politicians: those who worked with MacMillan know he required everyone on stage to contribute, everyone to know their own back story, to inhabit their character.

For Julie Lincoln, and her colleagues from the MacMillan team who teach and stage the works, the task is not only to teach the choreography from the notation, but to help everyone to understand the importance of the characterisation, encourage them to develop beyond the steps. By night two, Lincoln’s encouragement was obviously working: dancers were already growing their characters: courtiers more nosey, tarts saucier.

You also get all the detail because the Stanislavsky is an intimate theatre even though it seats 1,500. No-one can get away with marking their performance and it also allows subtle details to register which might otherwise be lost in bigger theatres. For the first time I saw how Baroness Vetsera, a stately performance from Natalie Trubnikova, is horrified when she understands just what a terrible liaison Larisch is cooking up for her daughter. With this clarity of detail possible, the audience doesn’t need to struggle through the complexities of plotting they print in the programme book.

another glowing review
Zelensky as Rudolf with Ksenia Shevtsova as Vetsera. Photo: M. Logvinov

Zelensky’s artistic direction also bodes well for the Stanislavsky company.  This is his second season with them, the first of his own full planning with Mayerling his first big import.  He is also the catalyst for the Stanislavsky acquiring the rights to perform MacMillan.  While at the Royal Ballet, he danced in Manon and Romeo and Juliet.  The MacMillan estate which fiercely protects the integrity of the choreography trusts Zelensky.

Bringing it in to Moscow is a major commitment for the company.   The company has built its own sets and costumes from the original Nicholas Georgiadis designs with financial support from BP.  BP has chosen the Stanislavsky as one of their major partners in Russian culture.

Talk of classic Russian ballet and many would think only of Bolshoi and Mariinsky as the exemplars of the best of it.  Huge houses, huge companies with long traditions and highly political profiles, closely related to federal government. The Stanislavsky companies actually belong to the City of Moscow, which funds them.  They’re proud to be part of that city’s strong and living theatrical tradition. The ballet side has regular festivals showcasing new talent, and they work in partnership with other companies abroad.  General director Vladimir Urin said it’s interesting for the development of the dancers to work with a variety of styles.

And now they have the challenges of MacMillan, which is a considerable coup for the company and its national profile. Until now, Muscovites have only seen MacMillan live on stage when the Royal visited.

Mayerling will be in rep until July.  Manon will join it next year.  Again, there will be a new build of the Georgiadis sets and costumes.  More will follow thereafter no doubt.  Will it be said that MacMillan has found a new home?




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