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Tamara Rojo: ‘Polunin is emotional but not lying’
Polunin’s Mayerling with the Stanislavsky
"I think now I’ve reached a stage in life of what you could call four different directions"
24 DEC 14
Sergei Polunin has given an interview to Izvestia, the Moscow daily, this week where he rows back on previous headlines that he was moving to Hollywood, and pays tribute to Igor Zelensky for keeping him focused in classical ballet.
He also claims that the actor Mickey Rourke is his inspiration, and - somewhat dubiously, considering his previous heavy use of social media during his chequered career with the Royal Ballet until his sudden departure in spring 2012 - that he is not easily accessible via comms technology. Here’s a translation.
By the way, it is relevant that Polunin, now 25, is one of several of today’s top Russian dancers who is Ukrainian-born. Others are the Bolshoi’s Svetlana Zakharova and the Mariinsky’s Uliana Lopatkina. Zakharova organized a gala earlier this month in aid of Ukrainian ballet schools.
Polunin: ‘I don’t want to be tied to one theatre’
The world ballet star Sergei Polunin took a star masterclass at the “Perspective” centre for artistic enterprise. The pupils are children with hearing handicaps. Izvestia’s correspondent talked with the dancer.
IZVESTIA: It’s said you had to be hunted down for this master-class.
POLUNIN: I think it's because of technology problems. I don’t actively use a phone or the internet, so there are communication problems. If someone’s nearby there’s no problem. But as I haven’t had my phone more than four months and I don’t go to the post office too often… I’ve been a bit lost to the world. Odd things were happening with the phone - for some reason I couldn’t load money on it, the payment wasn’t working. Before leaving for America I had only 100 rubles left and I thought that would run out soon so I stopped using it. And I got used to it.
In fact, you’re not much associated with masterclasses. With arts, glossy magazines, the media scene, yes.
This project started with a shoot I was doing with Bryan Adams. During the photo shoot, he asked me if I wanted to take part in a charity event. I said I would. And when I was in Moscow a bit later, it turned out the company office that was helping these children with disabilities was actually right next to the Stanislavsky Theatre. So thanks to the enthusiasm of the company, we met up and agreed on doing a masterclass. I really love helping children, it gives me real pleasure.
Though in fact this is the second masterclass of my life, the first one was in Los Angeles, it was also for children. I like it when I see I can do something to help. When I was little, I got inspired when somebody came, and explained, and gave a lesson. It’s important. Adults are already formed, but kids are looking on their own. So it means one can make a difference.
So people basically don’t inspire you?
Some people, of course, do still inspire me. Right now it’s two people - Igor Zelensky and Mickey Rourke. When you look at them, you feel different, you feel good. When I'm feeling down, I watch Mickey Rourke movies. And I always watch his movies before a show. He’s a great actor, and I think we’re alike in a way. I often compare myself to him when I’m on stage, and I do love doing that. Even more that when I’m on stage, I keep him in my vision.
While we’re on the subject of acting - it’s been said that you actually quit dancing for a movie career.
I think now I’ve reached a stage in life of what you could call four different directions. That’s musicals, cinema, ballet, and setting up my own company. I need to understand for myself what’s most interesting, and that I don’t know yet. I haven’t yet tried movie acting. I’ve done shoots, I know how to be in front of the camera, but that’s not the same as cinema.
I like the idea of being in a movie but I don’t know the film process: it is interesting enough, when it isn’t live performance, when it’s not a show that’s going on in the moment. I don’t think there’s any process as pleasurable as that.
So that’s a process that really interests you?
I’d say the process for me has always been more important than the result, though that might not be the right thing to say. But that’s how it is. I’m being asked to go on Broadway as well but I’m not sure it’s quite my thing. So I’ll keep looking. Igor Zelensky holds me to the ballet life, and it’s really important to me to have him with me on that particular path. Actually when it comes down to it, it’s him who’s holding me to classical ballet. He gives me a platform where I can dance, he gives me help and support. I just look at how he personally feels in his life about ballet, and it affects me. When I quit a ballet it’s sad because I know it’s a moment Igor’s experiencing, he’s really wanting me to carry on dancing. But I do have my own impulses. I don’t want to be tied to any particular theatre. I want to have my own company, my own work. To travel.
Do you already have your own ideas about theatre?
I have a lot of people wanting to help me with this new venture. So in January I’m going to London, I’m trying to make something real. I think there’ll be involvement in New York, in Russia. One can’t refuse. I have this mad idea to get together with all my friends, who include a lot of fantastic dancers. This is really where I feel a particular excitement. To dance something that’s classical but also new in a way. Not modern, though. I haven’t yet totally worked it out, I’m planning to spend the next five months on it.
Have you in the end tried out Hollywood?
There is interest in me in Hollywood. But I can’t, or rather I don’t want to go there. It takes about seven years to get to the top in Hollywood - a very long time, during which I’d probably have to play Russians, Chechens… I’m not sure I need this, actually.
So the idea of quitting your career at 26, as you’ve said in the past, that’s not so enticing now?
Well, it was an option. When you begin really wanting to change things, when your priorities change, the circumstances change with you. But one day I’m wanting one thing, another I’m wanting something else. Because I can’t myself decide what’s the most important thing I can’t construct the right way to go. And then at some point or other I have to to go with whatever the circumstances are: go for this or that. But then at the last moment, I’m turning back, and everything falls into place again.
‘Hide your flaws’
People were expecting you to appear at a concert in Moscow to aid the Kiev ballet school. That couldn’t happen?
From the beginning I said no, as I’d gone to Los Angeles and it was too late. But of course I’m worried about what’s happening in Ukraine. And I want to do a tour with a particular show nearer summer. It’s a very interesting idea, to combine dance and anti-war feeling. I hope that by August we’ll get this idea off the ground. I’d like to get as many countries as possible into the tour: Ukraine, Russia, America, England. There’s already been a documentary about me but here I want to bring it all together and do a documentary-art film. I hope it’ll happen.
Today you told the kids that ballet is a disguise for your imperfections.
The thing that’s most important, the thing you work so hard on from the very beginning, is not to think about how to do this or that movement. At that point you’re already starting to hide your flaws. Let’s say, someone likes turning - well, it’s not my favourite thing, not my strength. I much prefer jumping and acting. And this is where you start to understand: how if this or that thing isn’t your forte, how to replace it, or even just keep smiling through. Always - if something’s not working, just smile! If you fall over - smile even more!
Have you fallen over very much?
Oh yes (laughs). There was a time when I was falling pretty much every week. And every time it was so funny - it was ridiculous. In classical ballet everything is always all sophisticated, and beautiful, and falling is very unaesthetic.
What do you find most attractive about the ballet life?
The travelling, most of all. I love it - you can see the world. I’ve been in Mexico, Australia, Spain, Argentina, Cuba, Hawaii. Sometimes you’re ready to just drop in your room, you don’t want to go anywhere, but you must overcome it - or you’ll be sorry later. I do really regret that a lot.
Polunin explains his vanishing acts
Sergei Polunin (photo Vladimir Suvorov/ Izvestia)