Sergei Polunin’s story is the stuff great movies are made of. The ‘Dancer’ documentary film, portrays the probably most gifted ballet dancer of our time who had achieved everything at the age of 20 and then hit rock bottom. An impressive story about his rise, fall and rebirth.

Sergei Polunin is a star in the ballet world. No one jumps as high, as elegant, as expressive, with such a brilliant technique that challenges gravity as he does. His story?
Such a moving story that even Hollywood could not have scripted any better.

The Wonder Child

It is the story of a wonder child. Sergei Polunin was born into a very poor family in Ukraine on 20 November 1989 and his mother noticed early that he moved more elegantly than other children. He started training at the age of four – first as a gymnast and then as a dancer. Blessed with a unique talent, little Sergei soon outperformed all the others. His aim: to become the world’s best dancer. Thanks to a scholarship, he attended the legendary Royal Ballet School in London at the age of 13 where he lived on his own far away from his parents. Dancing, sleeping, dancing that is how he describes the time during which not pain but perfection was all that mattered. Carrying on his shoulders the burden of hope of his family who invested all they had in his training.

The Way to the Top

His career? A supposed fairy-tale life. After his graduation in 2007, he became a group dancer in the ballet ensemble of the Royal Theatre and then a demi-soloist in 2008, a soloist in 2009 and a first soloist in 2010 – and thus the company’s youngest-ever principal male dancer. Sergei Polunin had reached the top – and was lonely. He came to grief over the unfulfilling system of the dance world, the realisation of his lost childhood and his life ruled by discipline. That was all too much for Sergei Polunin and his fall started. Alcohol and drug abuse, self-injury, missed rehearsals and numerous tattoos are the summary of a downward spiral that ended with a big bang when he spontaneously terminated his contract in January 2012. “I felt free for the first time on that day,” recalls the highly gifted dancer today. He first reappeared in summer of the same year – as first soloist at the Stanislavsky and Nemirowich-Danchenko Music Theatre in Moscow that offered him new personal development opportunities. But it did not change his wish to quit dancing for good.

The Rebirth

The turning point was a telephone call from the photographer David Lachappell who talked Sergei into taking part in a film shooting on Hawaii in 2014. It was meant to be his last dance but in the end it was a new beginning. “During the nine hours on the set for the ‘Take me to Church’ dance video”, said Polunin, “it became clear to me that I could not completely do without dancing.” He meanwhile dances classical ballet again as a guest soloist but today primarily sees himself as a freelance artist and actor.

Photos Copyrights: Johan Persson