The Ravenna Festival has commissioned a new dance piece, Dante Metànoia, with choreography for Purgatory by Sergei Polunin, Inferno by Ross Freddie Ray and Paradiso by Jiří Bubeníček. The sole dancer for all three pieces is Polunin.
Dante Alighieri died in Ravenna 700 years ago on 14 September 1321.
I entered his reality and his imaginary world – says Polunin – and found a lot of the ‘inferno' (hell) in him. The ballet was supposed to premiere a year ago with other dancers on the stage, but we would have had to stand two metres apart. So, I decided on a one-man show. It was a challenge dictated by circumstances, and I will immerse myself in the energy from the audience.
In every ballet, I undertake a journey by means of my body. Dante experienced hell, purgatory, and paradise through his storytelling, and his is a story of ascension that now becomes mine, and which I transmit to the public. Everything revolves around the idea of change: art has the power to open the heart, mind, and soul.
Metànoia means a change of heart, a conversation, a transformation – has he changed?
At this moment in time, I am happy on the stage and I respect commitments. If I feel I'm in the right zone then I have no reason to fight the system and run away, so I stick with my vision and my life's plan. For the last year and a half everything has been better, and I am now in perfect physical shape and can tackle any classical role better than before.
[Lockdown] has been a wonderful time to share with my partner Elena and my son Mir, who are gifts from heaven. I have been living in the present, savouring the simple things like when I was a child, without commitments and pressures.
In my life I am now occupying the middle ground [purgatory, the piece he choreographed]: paradise and inferno are the extremes between which I have oscillated.
Paradise for me is classical ballet, the dimension that makes me fly and comes naturally to me. When I dance contemporary dance, it's inferno for my muscles. In Metànoia, my choreography for Purgatory is classical: in life, the middle way is the easiest.
DANTE METÀNOIA by and with Sergei Polunin, Teatro Alighieri, Ravenna 1-5 September 2021
Sergei Polunin was talking to the Corriere della Sera's Valeria Crippa
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.