Movie Review #1: Dancer

Posted 28th May 2017 by Wattle in Movies & TV, Reviews / 14 Comments

Title: Dancer
Year of Release: 2016
Director: Steven Cantor
Starring: Sergei Polunin
Format Watched: DVD
Rating: ★★★★☆

“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.”


Source: IMDb



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.


14 responses to “Movie Review #1: Dancer

  1. I’m obsessed with all things ballet – books, movies, documentaries, etc so I can’t believe I’ve never heard about this. Now it’s on my radar, and I’m determined to track it down. It sounds like such a sad story though, so talented but also so troubled. But a ballet bad boy, I need this!

    • I hope you enjoy it if you manage to get your hands on it ๐Ÿ™‚ it’s definitely worth an hour and a half of your time in my opinion (I am a bit bias though haha).

  2. I don’t watch many documentaries, but this does sound like it’d be interesting. I’ve seen that video before, and it’s gorgeous! I can’t say I watch much ballet, but I’ve always admired the strength and flexibility and hard work it takes.

    • Right? I’ve never really thought about how physically draining being a professional ballet dancer would be, but it’s probably more demanding than most sports :/

  3. I don’t really watch any movies like this. I am not really interested in ballet, but I did read a book recently with a main character that did ballet, which was interesting to read about. It does sound like he had a though life with the pressure of being the best and performing, but it’s good he seems to love it as well. glad to hear you enjoyed this one. I’ve done one or two movie review son my blog myself and I do find them interesting to read, so i am glad you shared your thoughts about this movie :).

  4. Wow, only 27 and he was contemplating retirement. It seems the life of a dancer is very short lived, especially given they start at such a young age and hit their peek when most of us are just learning to become adults. I could never be cut out for that life. I watch a few documentaries and this sounds wonderful. Just watching his interpretation of ‘Take me to Church’ and he’s magnificent. Brilliant review Bre, really enjoyed it <3 <3

    • Such a short career. I guess it’s similar for most professional sports people, like when the AFL journalists harp on about someone who’s 32 being ‘old’. It makes me wonder how many of them have plans post sport, that aren’t…you know, coaching lol

  5. Holy crap he’s amazing! I LOVE ballet, so I’m a little surprised I know nothing about him (or this documentary). If you get the chance to watch Mao’s Last Dancer (based off the memoir so it’s a book too!) and if this has converted you, you should watch it! It’s the true story of a dancer who needed to escape communist China and the dancing in it is gorgeous. In the meantime, I’ve got to get my hands on this documentary!

    • Right? I read UK newspapers (because the Australian media annoys me) and I don’t recall seeing him in any headlines; although I don’t read the tabloids (often haha). I totally have a copy of Mao’s Last Dancer on my shelves! I haven’t read it (surprise, surprise!) but I’ll definitely have to now…AND check out the movie ๐Ÿ™‚

Leave a Reply

Want to include a link to one of your blog posts below your comment? Enter your URL in the website field, then click the button below to get started.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.