Year of Release: 2016
Director: Steven Cantor
Starring: Sergei Polunin
Format Watched: DVD
“Sergei Polunin is a breathtaking ballet talent who questions his existence and his commitment to dance just as he is about to become a legend.”
I must admit, ballet? So not my thing, but then a couple of years ago this came into my life:
And I was all ‘I guess I can appreciate dance after all…’ haha this video led to reading articles and watching interviews. Sergei Polunin’s story is interesting and at times sad, so of course a documentary came about.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I finally got my hands on this. It was out in cinemas for a brief period last year, so brief I blinked and missed it. Promotion for the dvd was pretty huge (at least, on my Facebook feed!) so I pre-ordered, watched it, and then sat on my feelings for a while.
Polunin was a huge young talent in the ballet world – he was the Royal Ballet’s youngest principal dancer at 19, and then a couple of years later he skipped out and decided he was done. He was known as a ‘bad boy’, covered in tattoos (that he had to cover to perform), living it up at parties, getting himself into trouble. Basically just a young guy, in a stressful environment, acting out as only he knew how.
This documentary looks at his life from when he was a young boy, how his parents pushed and supported him – which led to the breakdown of their marriage. He lived away from his family at such a young age, and didn’t see them for a very long time (and then refused to let them see him perform).
Polunin seems to harbour a lot of anger and resentment for himself and his parents, his mother wanted better for him than she could provide, and in the process made it so he didn’t have a choice when it came to his career. In turn, he blamed himself for the end of his parents relationship and thought if he just did better, everything would be all right.
Watching this made me think that he both hates and loves dance, hates it because it was forced upon him, loves it because it’s how he can express himself (and he is very good at it). He went from being at the top to then being at the bottom when he moved to Russia; and that video of ‘Take Me to Church’ was what he intended to be his last performance.
But instead of ending his career, it seemed to reinvigorate it. He has been through so much personal hardship, I get the feeling he doesn’t really know what he wants, but right now dance is enough. I felt it ended in a hopeful place; but I cannot imagine the pressure he must have felt as a child to succeed. And because of this he didn’t really have a childhood at all; he was constantly working toward the goal of being the best; and when he got there it wasn’t as satisfying as he thought it would be.
An interesting documentary, though I felt it was a bit short (it’s 85 minutes long). I hope he ends up in a good place, he’s still so young (only 27) and has so much ahead of him.