Three days ago on Instagram and two hours ago on VK, the dancer Sergei Polunin posted an image of his torso with the well-known central tattoo of Vladimir Putin, together with two more Putins on his right and left shoulders. He had announced last year that he was having the Putin tattoo removed.
VK or ‘Vkontakte’ meaning ‘InContact’, the popular Russian social media site that apes Facebook (and has been banned in Ukraine since 2017) predictably has mainly positive comments to his new ink: “Sergey, thank you for not only supporting Russians with your creativity, but also supporting our president with body and soul and energy.” and “Very bold!!! Only Polunin can do that.” Though one person wrote, “Tattoos will not help.”
However the Instagram photo has many shocked comments, with David LaChapelle (who directed Polunin’s Take me to Church video) saying, “One wasn’t strong enough?”, many cries of, “Why???? Why???”, and “The day you lost most of your fans,” with many of the 4,000 comments saying that they were unfollowing him. There are, however, almost 12,000 likes.
Polunin says that he thinks of himself as Russian, though he was born in the Ukrainian city of Kherson. With his latest political statement he is presumably not intending to resume performances outside Russia of the ballets Rasputin and Romeo and Juliet postponed because of his Achilles tendon injury in March 2022. In July, four months after his operation in Dubai, he returned to the stage.
Later today, Polunin added the following photo to his Instagram account, showing his face together with the new tattoos for the first time. The post was taken down after an hour… At the time of writing the image was still posted to Facebook.
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.