“The James Dean of the Ballet World” Sergei Polunin was decribed by Daily Telegraph in 2012. He quit the Royal Ballet in London sensationally and stopped his golden carreer by himself. Enjoy to see him dancing in “Take me to church”, by Hozier, directed by David LaChapelle.
Article in the guardian from February 2015 von Judith Mackrell
Sergei Polunin dances with his demons to Hozier’s Take Me to Church
David LaChapelle captures the Ukrainian dancer’s battle to make peace with his talent – and in another viral video, Baryshnikov partners Lil Buck
When Take Me to Church was released in 2013, with Brendan Canty and Conal Thomson’s graphically angry protest video, Hozier’s hit song span off into a worldwide anthem for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Now another video interpretation of the Hozier song has appeared online, and it too is going viral. If there’s a political message to David LaChapelle’s film of Sergei Polunin dancing alone in an empty barn, it’s a deliberately oblique one. But Polunin, a Ukrainian dancer who is now working principally in Russia and who has struggled very publicly in the search for his professional and personal identity, brings a story of his own to Hozier’s song.
This solo is far from showing Polunin at his extraordinary best. Jade Hale-Christofi’s choreography is burdened with hackneyed, head-clutching emoting and, atmospheric though the venue is, it’s a constricted space. Yet LaChapelle’s filming creates its own striking chemistry with Polunin, portraying him nakedly, poignantly alone with himself. His numerous tattoos – usually covered with stage makeup – are proudly on display, his dancer’s tights are symbolically torn. And in the huge body-wracking shifts from floor-hugging crouches to airborne leaps, Polunin does seem to bring to his dancing the demons of his difficult life.
The fact that he was pushed into ballet training, sent off to the Royal Ballet school when he was just 13, left Polunin with a deeply conflicted relationship to his own prodigious talent. Three years ago he suddenly exited the Royal, claiming he was unable to work within the constraints of the company’s discipline. And although he subsequently moved to Russia to dance with the Stanislavsky and Novosibirsk ballet companies, he still did not settle. In September last year he announced his intention to leave ballet altogether and begin a Hollywood career, and while he is still dancing it’s unclear for how long.
In his performance for LaChapelle’s video, the gorgeousness of certain dance moments (and paradoxically the ragged quality of others) make painful viewing for those who’ve long admired Polunin’s talent but fear he will never make peace with it. The pure eloquent stretch of his back at 1m37s; the lovely control of shape and rhythm as his airborne pirouettes topple down towards the floor at 2m15s; the tight stretch of the feet in the tours en l’air; the angled line of the jump at 3m37s. These are physical riches, and they don’t come around that often in the ballet world. But Polunin is only 25. And the fact that a career can be as long and flexible as you make it is demonstrated by 67-year-old Mikhail Baryshnikov – the classical prince turned contemporary dancer turned actor, who’s also going viral on the internet right now.
I was slightly surprised to see Baryshnikov in this Rag & Bone fashion shoot, given his recent career trajectory towards Samuel Beckett and Robert Wilson. But I suspect that the main draw was the chance to dance with hip-hop artist Lil Buck. Baryshnikov has always had a curiosity and a reverence for other dancers and other forms and it’s fascinating to watch him working alongside Lil Buck and absorbing the robotic flicker and low-slung bounce of his style.
Possibly the director should have suggested Baryshnikov relax his expression slightly. But what a physical performance he delivers – the explosion of energy through his body at 40s would be impressive in a dancer half his age. And what a phenomenon of grace, charisma and control is Lil Buck – whose own curious-minded explorations outside the hip-hop box (like this masterly take on The Dying Swan) suggest he may have as long and varied career as Baryshnikov himself .
*NOTE: This is one of the few posts rescued from my last blog, re-edited.
If you are inside the ballet world it’s probable you’ve heard that name before. In case you are not familiar with him I’ll give you a little insight to whom Sergei Polunin is.
The media has called him the James Dean of ballet, why? A young prodigy, Polunin became a legend since his ballet school days at the Royal Ballet School in London. Recognized for his clean and perfect technique he earned the respect and admiration of teachers as well as his fellow classmates and members of the company. Finally, in 2010, he became the company’s youngest ever principal at age 19.
The hype of his career was at it’s best when suddenly he decided to rebel against the rules, quitting and leaving the Royal Ballet Company without much explanation in the middle of a rehearsal. This, of course, caused great…
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