Sergei Polunin: Classical Ballet’s Gifted Beast

Ballet dancer Sergei Polunin in the 2016 documentary "Dancer"
Ballet dancer Sergei Polunin in the 2016 documentary “Dancer.”

Emotional, impulsive and eccentric Sergei Polunin is one of the most gifted male ballet dancers of his generation. “He’s an artist who could make it on the level of [Rudolf] Nureyev and [Mikhail] Baryshnikov if he stays focused on dancing,” art critics say, acknowledging the Ukrainian-born man’s superstar quality. “The James Dean of the Ballet World,” according to international media, is not only famous for his flawless performances but his volatile off-stage attitude as well. Everybody agrees that Sergei Polunin can effortlessly hold lay audiences and critics in thrall to both his fiery talent and alluring arrogance.

The 2016 documentary film “Dancer,” created by American movie director Steven Cantor, featured a bare-chested Sergei Polunin deliriously dancing alone in a studio in Hawaii to the rhythm of Hozier’s popular song “Take Me to Church.” The documentary successfully narrated all the anomalies and contradictions that led a true classical ballet prodigy to turn into a controversial and notorious figure. The four-minute solo of Sergei, which was published ahead of the biographical movie’s release exposing the artist’s robust physicality and raw emotion, went viral on YouTube, scoring now more than 23 million views.

Ballet dancer Sergei Polunin was born in 1989 in Kherson, Ukraine. At the age of 19, he was appointed as the youngest-ever principal dancer at London’s Royal Ballet. Only two years later, Sergei Polunin walked out the theater company amid accusations of erratic behavior and drug use. “One reason I started not to like dance was that everyone was by themselves,” Sergei confessed in a recent interview with W Magazine. Sergei has repeatedly expressed the deep misery he felt during this period of his life admitting that the artist in him was dying.

Sculptor Richard MacDonald and classical ballet dancer Sergei Polunin
Sculptor Richard MacDonald and classical ballet dancer Sergei Polunin

Since his abrupt decamp from The Royal Ballet, the graceful Ukrainian dancer with the tattooed torso embraced various leading roles as a guest with prestigious European companies and has participated in numerous successful fashion campaigns. Polunin also made his debut as an actor in the 2017 “Murder on the Orient Express” movie broadening his acting repertoire in the 2018 “Red Sparrow” and “The White Crow” films.