Originally published on Garnant

Watching Sergei Polunin dance is always amazing (those jumps!), and being able see his younger self in so many video fragments was unexpected and kind of heartbreaking, but I also felt slightly manipulated by this narrative where an ambitious and assertive mother and a well-meaning but absent father, from the post-soviet squalor to the cold unsupportive British ballet community, cause the emotional doom of the tattooed protagonist.

To me, it sounds more like a narrative ballet than real life. A romantic classic, it could even enter the repertoire.

I’m a bit disappointed here because I had always thought that the point in Polunin’s rebellion, or at least this is the idea I got from the interviews over the years, was the search for creative freedom.

In ballet, if you crave freedom, creative freedom, freedom of career choice, freedom from physical pain, you’re going to be disappointed, disenchanted, and maybe even traumatized. Ballet is supposed to be pure art but it’s more competitive than regular elite sports. Companies exert violent pressure to control the career of their dancers. Also starvation and pain are considered unavoidable (Ohan Naharin had to invent his own movement language in order to break free from pain). Not to mention ballet is often linked to “acid attacks” in the news.

It’s interesting that we got to know Polunin’s loving but messed-up family, as well as his very first ballet teacher (the proper mother figure of the story and the woman we have to thank for teaching him how to pirouette in the fist place), but I’m worried this way we’re blaming his distress over an alleged combination of oversensitive personality and cold mother, while we should be talking about the ballet world and why he’s trying to change it.

It’s a dangerous situation Polunin has put himself into. To be honest, I find some of his new projects slightly alarming (Hollywood especially, also I’m not really into Take me to the Church, musically speaking), but I trust Natalia Osipova and her influence quite a lot.

Published by Garnant (frivolous, uncaring and cold)