On the eve of the debut of a new Romeo and Juliet at Verona’s Arena with choreography by Johan Kobborg and with Sergei Polunin and Alina Cojocaru in the title roles, Polunin talked with Vogue Italia’s Valentina Bonelli.
The classics can often seem dated and today it can be difficult to relate to them. Instead, we are putting on stage an understandable and exciting story, though without forgetting the artistic quality, that is: pop but not cheap. It is important to find a new ballet language, especially for the young generation, who need to understand it with what they have at their disposal: they will not have read the Shakespeare play and are used to fast communication.
Polunin’s first Romeo
My Romeo won’t be romantic, a term that I’ve never liked as it implies a saccharine quality that I don’t identify with. I’ve always looked at the role as an outsider, as he was someone I couldn’t relate too. It’s not an accident that I have never played him – I left The Royal Ballet 10 days before my debut in Romeo and Juliet and it’s not been offered to me since. The Romeo of my new ballet will be like me, interpreted in my own way. He will certainly be passionate – as a man and as an artist I have always let my passions guide me.
As a man, he has recently found his real-life Juliet:
Elena Ilinykh is a Russian skater and Olympic champion. We met through Instagram. I would never have thought it possible being that others mange my social networks for me, and I use them for private messaging. In this case I felt a special energy and when we met, I knew instantly that I wanted to be with her. Love is the most important thing in life. For an artist, and for me in particular, it gives stability.
Polunin’s production company, Polunin Ink, which is behind this Romeo and Juliet, also produced the recent ballet Rasputin which received somewhat mixed reviews in London. Ilinykh was in the cast, as was Kobborg. Polunin was Rasputin.
My intuition about Rasputin, the monk who brought down the tsarist government, is that he wasn’t a bad person, but that he really wanted to help the royal family and the Russian Empire. Of course, he was overwhelmed by his excesses: the drinking, the sex… but above all by the manipulation of the minds of others: a skill that some possess. I use it too… obviously for good.
As an artist I feel it is my duty to show others that they can be anyone they want. I‘ve been doing this all my life. I’m told I‘m just a dancer, but no, I can be an actor, a choreographer, a company director, a model… Today I care a lot about young people, they are my key to understanding the world and give me my drive to evolve. Teaching dance to children makes me happy.
As an independent artist I need capital, a lot, to create my projects and pay those who work with me. But alone, I can shout from the rooftops and claim to save the world, but its the politicians, who are incredibly powerful, who can make my vision come to fruition.
Politicians? He has upset many with his admiration for Putin, now set in skin on his chest.
On social media, I approached certain themes because I wanted to see if there really is freedom of speech. I realised that some people agree with me, and some don’t, but even if everyone has a different opinion, together you must have a collective idea: it’s a way to control people. But I don‘t want to be like everyone else, and want to continue to think in my own way, but without being considered a bad person for it.
Yet his Paris Opera Ballet appearance was cancelled after his perceived homophobic remarks.
I may be wrong, but I find the American and now European way of ruining careers so cruel. What? You loved me so much and suddenly, because we don’t think in the way, you throw me aside in a week? But I don‘t care, I always have at least five other offers to choose from.