A full-page article in today's Corriere della Sera, a major Italian newspaper, has the headline: Polunin, the bad boy of dance “is homophobic”.
After recent Instagram postings which were widely discussed, Sergei Polunin found sponsors disappearing and an engagement at the Paris Opera Ballet cancelled. The most commentated post was the one where he urged male ballet dancers to “man up”, saying, “Man should be a man and woman should be a woman, that's the reason you've got balls,” … and so on.
Now the Circolo Pink in Verona has asked the city's mayor, Federico Sboarina (a member of Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party) to cancel the planned performance of Romeo and Juliet on 26 August in the vast Roman amphitheatre, the Verona Arena. Circolo Pink, an LGBT rights and support organisation since 1985, said that Polunin “is undoubtedly an artist of stature but at the same time is undoubtedly a fundamentalist”, stating that given Polunin's “homophobic standpoint” and ideas that are “against the self-determination of women” the ballet should be suspended. Romeo and Juliet is a new production with choreography by Johan Kobborg, and with Alina Cojocaru as Juliet.
Marco Messina, a dancer with the La Scala company who married fellow dancer Salvo Perdichizzi in 2017, told journalist Candida Morvillo,
We are amazed that Polunin should send out these messages, when he should know full well that still today many boys who study dance get bullied because of homophobia, pushing some towards suicide.
I'd like to dance a pas de deux with him for two men. I'm gay in my private life, but when I dance, if I'm asked to kiss a woman, I do it. On stage, we're just professionals.
Principal dancer Virna Toppi who met Polunin when he danced a couple of performances of Giselle with Natalia Ospiova at La Scala and he had seemed so pleasant that she thinks that there must be some sort of misunderstanding, but she says,
If a dancer performs with me, I don't care if he's straight or not, the important thing is that at that moment he loves me.
The Arena's managing director, Gianmarco Mazzi, was quoted in the Corriere del Veneto newspaper as saying,
I think that a world class artist of Polunin's stature should be judged for his art.
The Arena's intendant, soprano Cecilia Gasdia, has said that she's still considering her response.
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.