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Top dancer Sergei Polunin smiling again as he performs in Siberia after quitting London

By 0 and 0 and 0
15 October 2012


Happy again: Sergei Polunin smiling on the steps of Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre. Picture: Viktor Dmitriyev, Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre

Sergei performed in La Bayadere at Russia's largest theatre on Saturday and will be back again regularly in his new life working with artistic director Igor Zelensky.

The 22 year old star - among the most sought-after in the world - looked smiling and happy after appearing  miserable and stressed when he suddenly quit London's world famous Covent Garden theatre citing a lack of respect and support from his British producers. 

Sergei Polunin, Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet theatre

Sergei Polunin's first rehearsal in Siberia. Picture: Viktor Dmitriyev, Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre

'In the West sometimes they think that Siberia is just snow and nothing else,' he said in an interview in Novosibirsk ahead of his performance on Saturday. 

'But you get here - and there is such life, such energy here. There are restaurants here that are much cooler than Western ones. There are party places that would have very surprised many of my European and American colleagues. 

'It's beautiful here, and very fresh air. You feel the same energy as in Moscow, New York or London.'

In his new life, Polunin is working with Zelensky, artistic director of both the  Stanislavskiy and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theatre in Moscow and the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre. 

Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet theatre

Posters with Sergei Polunin's face ahead of his first perfomance in the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre. Picture: The Siberian Times 

He contrasted Moscow with his life in London, where he had gone aged 13 on a scholarship which saw him becoming the leading dancer at the prestigious Royal Ballet. 

'Life there is calm, stable... and boring,' he said of the British capital. 'I already knew aged 19 that with time I would have several houses, that I would never jump over a certain level - but would never fall down either. And in Moscow its all so unexpected, everything is moving and swirling.'

Polunin warmly praised Zelensky for restoring his zest for ballet after false starts in both New York and St Petersburg as he attempted to carve out a new niche. 

He 'has the talent to persuade and motivate people and get them interested not only in theatre, but also in him. We met, and he was persuading me for three weeks in person and by emails,' said the dancer, who changed his mind to follow Zelensky's advice.

'I learned the classics at school by Igor's dance videos,' he said. 'He's very good at changing people's mind. He invited me here, and I trusted him.'

Polunin said: 'There is no-one above me except for Igor. I don't need to listen to anyone, I can get to him direct and say what I want to dance - and Igor does it. He likes doing things quickly. So do I. I like it when things happen fast and are not planned for two or three years - like happens in the West.'

Many in the ballet world - not only his bosses in London - were puzzled by his sudden walkout from Covent Garden.

'Why did I leave? My interest to ballet was waning, I was only getting adrenaline when on stage, and I wanted to get something new and full of energy. I was thinking about New York, it seemed to be freer than London then.  

'I felt like there was no joy from dancing - and why would you want to keep doing something if its no joy? 

'I wanted to change everything, to combine ballet and musicals like Baryshnikov did once.'

In London he didn't feel 'there was space to grow as an artist. And I did not want to get  more closely attached to that place. 

'If I was to wait longer, I'd  have rooted myself much deeper, as the time was coming to get a UK passport and to buy a flat. It was the right moment to leave.'

Sergei Polunin, Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet theatre

Sergei Polunin's first rehearsal in Siberia with Novosibirsk ballet Prima Anna Odintsova. Picture: Viktor Dmitriyev, Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre

Speaking in Siberia, he expressed upset that he was not offered a British passport; instead he had to return annually to Ukraine to arrange a new UK visa.

'I've had to control myself in London since I was 13 years old. In my Kiev school previously, I was fighting with boys, sometimes once every two days. In London I very quickly realised that after one fight I might be forever kicked out of the school. 

'So I had to control myself until the last minute. And later, you know,  there I am, without a UK passport and if I do something wrong at theatre I can be kicked out of the country where I'd lived for eight years. So it was a feeling of permanent dependence and attachment to it, and constant pressure that I didn't do something wrong, something bad. 

'I was fighting with myself. I remember that, yes, there were times when I dined with princes, or some very wealthy people, dressed to the nines. And then I got to know another part of London, with poor people who drank and smoked. Perhaps I've been missing the adrenaline if I felt I was interested in that kind of life too. 

'And at one point I exploded'.

Polunin said he did not know in the morning 'that in the evening I will be jobless. Yes I'd been thinking about leaving. 

'I kept in mind the destinies of my colleagues that danced for Royal Ballet, like Irek Mukhammedov and Ivan Putrov. 

'The theatre uses artists while they are at the peak of their strength  - and then throws them away and wipes the memory about them. 

'No-one needs an artist in London if he is not on the peak of his glory - even if he is famous around the world. 

'Nureyev was also pushed away when Margot Fonteyn quit the stage, he used to say this.   I could have danced for ten more years to then hear a cold 'goodbye'. I foresaw it.'

The bottom line for Polunin was that 'my dream to become the best dancer  of the Royal Ballet came true when I was 19 years old.

For the future, he is in talks about a  feature film about Rudolf Nureyev, a major Hollywood project - 'serious work for six months' - as well as a BBC documentary.

People who saw him around the time he quit London remarked on his gloom. 

'I'm single now, I'm free. But I am so busy that I hardly have time to look around,' he said. 

'I had a British girlfriend for three years. She by the way was calling a day ago - but I didn't pick up'.

Additional reporting: Kate Baklitskaya

Comments (11)

Sergei to wspaniały ,utalentowany tancerz, Jego taniec to dzieło sztuki ,urodził się aby tańczyć, Sergei to najlepszy z najlepszych tancerzy na świecie
Oda, Gdynia,Poland
24/01/2017 04:05
Sergei Polunin is the greatest dancer and artist of all times. Yes.
Raimund, Vienna, Austria
21/07/2015 05:10
Sergei - you did the absolute right thing, at the absolute right time. Living in the West is like living in a padded cell with white walls and a constant hum. There is life to be lived elsewhere - where life, reality, pain, sorrow, and joy - is all for the taking. Kudos to you for letting your spirit lead the way. Going back home to Russia was the right decision it seems. Your talent is through the roof, like no other - make the most of it. All the best.
Runa, United States
20/05/2015 02:20
Sergei, please continue dancing no matter where. I love you! You dance like an angel. Cant wait to see another performance again.
SPS, Hamburg, Germany
18/03/2013 21:58
Talent or not, he speaks like a self absorbed arrogant ass. He won't last a year in New York with that attitude.
Robert Pagen, Beijing
09/12/2012 08:14
wow, he is so pretty! i knew he is a fantastic dancer, but i never thought he was so good looking. and he is single, lol
maria, rio de janeiro/brazil
27/10/2012 00:39
gorgeous as always, but no way he left London for Siberia!
Jenn, UK
19/10/2012 01:00
Siberia! I wondered where Sergei Polunin had run off to. Happy exile
Vera, Surrey
19/10/2012 00:50
He is truly amazing. Lucky Novosibirsk to have him, wish I lived somewhere closer. Welcome to Russia, Sergei!
Katya, Russia
15/10/2012 20:22
Sergei is hot!!!
D. , englandland
15/10/2012 18:20
now I'm really, really really jealous of people in Siberia. I've seen Sergei and I still cant believe brits have let him go. He IS a world star, a true genious
Mc M, London
15/10/2012 14:30

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