Sergei Polunin was in Milan recently to partner Natalia Osipova in Giselle after David Hallberg was forced to withdraw. There was great curiosity and excitement among the La Scala ballet crowd to see these two firecrackers on stage together. While he was in town, he talked to Il corriere della sera‘s dance journalist, Valeria Crippa, who asked him whether he felt liberated or trapped by ballet.
I filter my emotions through the characters I play, I reach down to my soul, I lose myself in the flow of feelings, in this way every performance is different. I don’t like rehearsing much, it’s rather boring and takes away the spontaneity of the interpretation. Take Giselle: I love to dig deep into Albrecht’s sadness… his loneliness. It is the dark side of ballet that attracts me.
Talking of ‘dark sides’ he also explained his decision to leave the Royal Ballet, soon after he’s been made the Company’s youngest ever Principal dancer.
I follow my instincts of the moment. A part of me fights against the restrictions of this career and I feel as though I’m going mad. Repeating everything for twenty years? Class? It’s dreadfully tedious.
That’s the reason why I left the Royal Ballet; as an artist, I want to expand my creative horizons, but in a large company, you are limited. So I threw away a lot of what I had achieved in order to bring something new into my life. I have found myself in a midway place where I feel free to experiment.
A freedom that let him go to Los Angeles where he collaborated with David LaChapelle for the video to Hozier’s Take Me to Church. Such was the popularity of that video (11 million views on YouTube) that this blog was brought down several times by the sheer number of people wanting to find out more about Sergei Polunin.
It surprised me that so many people loved that video, and so many children were saying that they wanted to become dancers. I’d like to make ballet more pop. There are loads of people who think it’s boring.
So what of the future?
There are several projects I’d like to carry through. There is a Foundation bearing my name to give youngsters the possibility to study dance, which is what happened to me when, at 13, I arrived at the Royal Ballet School with the help of the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation. I think my next project will be to choreograph a work. I also want to make a movie, working with a director like Gus Van Sant who has already photographed me.
I was greatly inspired by Baryshnikov, Vladimir Vassiliev in Spartacus… and Nureyev, of course. I’m tired of being seen as a rebel, even if I love rock. I want to become a positive role model for others.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.