Mar 232013

Sergei Polunin in The Sleeping Beauty photo by Johan Persson 500x439 Sergei Polunin on bringing Mayerling to Moscow, and dancing until 50, who fam­ously defec­ted from the just over a year ago, has found a home at the Stan­islavsky theatre, and fame through win­ning a tele­vi­sion dance com­pet­i­tion. Set­tling down after his semi-breakdown, he is demon­strat­ing the value of the School and Com­pany by return­ing to part­ner in her farewell per­form­ances at , and by bring­ing a cre­ation to Rus­sia. Yes­ter­day saw the première of ’s  in Moscow, with Polunin as tor­tured Crown Prince Rudolf. The bal­let was cre­ated for in 1978.

Although he will dance only one per­form­ance, shar­ing the role with Georgi Smilevski and the com­pany dir­ector , it is proof that his Lon­don years are import­ant to him, and he’s not going to throw out the baby with the bath water.

Izves­tia asked him about the work.

In Rus­sia Mac­Mil­lan is rarely danced, although the audi­ences love his­tor­ical melo­drama. You seem to have a lot of exper­i­ence of per­form­ing his ballets.

Since I was 17 I was busy in the corps de bal­let for and May­er­ling. It is a good basic act­ing train­ing to go through. In Mac­Mil­lan bal­lets you don’t just act it but live it, and there’s a lot of impro­visa­tion: if someone isn’t where they usu­ally are you work around it; it depends on your mood, on how you are feeling.

Are you com­fort­able play­ing Rudolf, such an unsym­path­etic and dif­fi­cult character?

Yes. Some roles I find dif­fi­cult to inhabit: in Gis­elle, for example, I can’t get into the first act: how do I play a Duke play­ing a peas­ant? But Rudolf just came, com­fort­ably and organically.

What do you think Rus­sian audi­ences will make of May­er­ling? It’s far from our history.

I don’t think every­one will like May­er­ling, it’s a mat­ter of taste. In Lon­don the Royal Bal­let have been doing Mac­Mil­lan for many years, and his works remain in the rep­er­toire with the vin­tage décor. Here with Zelensky, everything has been cre­ated from scratch. Up to the last minute I thought it all a big risk, and that May­er­ling will look fake — it is in a very dif­fer­ent style to the usual Rus­sian pro­duc­tions. But the theatre has done a great job. There have been a lot of frayed nerves, but we’ll now see if, over time, the pro­duc­tion will be understood.

Both you and the artistic dir­ector Igor Zelensky are dan­cing Rudolf.

Yes. Igor is no longer young, but at 43 he’s still in great shape. This bal­let is hard even for a young dan­cer, after the run-through, I felt as if I had aged two years. May­er­ling takes everything out of you phys­ic­ally, like Sparta­cus.

And talk­ing of age, Polunin once said that he would stop dan­cing at 26.

It seems crazy now, but at 18 I thought that 26 was a good age to stop. Bal­let hurts. Up until the age of 32 years it’s fun, and the body is able to recover, though after 28 you need to work harder to keep your­self in good shape. For a mature dan­cer it’s difficult.

So when you reach 26, what will you do?

I don’t know what else I can do. If I can cross that line then maybe I’ll dance to the end, prov­ing that even a 50-year-old can per­form at a high level.

Photo: Sergei Polunin in The , the Royal Bal­let; by Johan Persson

  One Response to “Sergei Polunin on bringing Mayerling to Moscow, and dancing until 50”

  1. The dra­matic intens­ity Polunon dis­plays in May­er­ling is so emo­tion­ally bare, even slip­ping some­times dan­ger­ously close to real­ity, is and excit­ing to watch — on line. Live per­form­ances must leave the audi­ence, as well as the dan­cers, emo­tion­ally exhausted and drained. This is the very type of story bal­let and ener­getic per­form­ance that addicts audi­ences to the red and gold art. Hurrah!

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