Sergei Polunin: The Fragile Balance

Jem Goulding’s New Film Captures the Inner World of the Restless Prince of Ballet

Leaving Ukraine at the tender age of 13 to join London's Royal Ballet School, Sergei Polunin became the youngest-ever principal dancer in the history of the Royal Ballet at 19, earning him comparisons to 20th century greats Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rudolf Nureyev. In this touching portrait by artist and director Jem Goulding, Polunin reflects on early triumphs, autonomy and “playing with journalists” while performing at Moscow’s Stanislavsky Theatre. Known for his visceral, adrenaline-charged technique and emotive style, the dance prodigy is making a return to ballet since his controversial departure from London's Royal supertroupe last year. Goulding assembled footage from a week spent with Polunin on and off the stage in Moscow, where he is currently under the mentorship of Igor Zelensky, the artistic director of the Stanislavsky Ballet. “Sergei was in the middle of an intense rehearsal schedule for his tour of Coppelia, and I sat in on rehearsals every day,” explains the filmmaker, “though I always planned to catch him outside of ballet; sometimes we would be at a restaurant, other times he was fresh out of the shower after training, and tired.” Shooting on Super 8 and her 16mm Bolex camera, Goulding depicts a seldom seen side of Polunin: From candid moments in Red Square to a spontaneous tour of the Bolshoi. “Sergei is an adrenaline junkie, a thrill-seeker and fearless in many ways,” she adds, “even if some of it comes from youthful naivety, it's still compelling.”

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Conversations (3)

  • frifri63
    So inspirational, such depth in such a young man. I loved the honesty of this film, the candid truth of this genius/prodigy of the Arts
  • atretia
    The music is so beautiful and the video is a really great perspective on Polunin. Just lovely.
  • zwjazda
    Great Video!
    • Posted By zwjazda
    • August 22, 2013 at 12:30PM
    • Share Comment:

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  • ON REPLAY
    ON REPLAY

    No Sour Meadows

    A Private Tour of Beatrix Ost and Ludwig Kuttner's Avant-Garde Country Paradise

    Stretching across 500 acres of Charlottesville, Virginia, is Estouteville, a 19th century Edwardian ranch and home to arts patrons and textile entrepreneurs Beatrix Ost and Ludwig Kuttner. An artist, writer and theater producer, the German-born Ost, together with her philanthropist partner Kuttner, discovered the idyllic estate in 1982, when she swung a pendulum over a map of the East Coast which led her to Albemarle County. “There are endless treehouses, sculptures, and art pieces made by other people on the property,” says today's filmmaker Columbine Goldsmith. “They live a life that is very community-based and focused on encouraging the talents of the people around them.” Ost’s idiosyncratic personal style and snow white, purple-tinted hair have earned her a cover of the New York Times Magazine and editorials for Harper’s Bazaar, while Kuttner is the unlikely gourmand, using the grand scale of their private playground to grow local produce. “We really followed them around on what is more or less a normal day,” adds Goldsmith, who was joined by the couple’s granddaughter, Eva, as the family explored the nearby lily pond, with its very own resident snake. “Every part of the farm is a seamless fusion of wild eccentricity and homely life.” 

    (Read More)
  • MOST SHARED IN CULTURE
    MOST SHARED IN CULTURE

    Hallberg at Work

    The International Ballet Sensation Shows Off Some Bold New Moves

    Through the bustle of Manhattan’s busy streets, down a nondescript hallway and into American Ballet Theater’s bright NYC studios, one of the world’s preeminent male dancers, David Hallberg, invites us into his fervid world in this dynamic short by director Eric K. Yue. “It’s less about the dance or context of a story, but rather a state of mind,” says Yue of his glimpse into the dancer’s tender preparation. “David makes the most difficult and complex moves seem effortless and elegant.” Contemporary Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds’ track “Brim” taken from From Now I am Winter accompanies the progressive movement as Hallberg leaps through the space, twisting and contorting to original choreography created specifically for this film, by friend and fellow ABT dancer Marcelo Gomes. “There was no preconceived notion of how a role has been portrayed in the past, like Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty,” says Hallberg of performing for the short, which was produced by Forever Pictures. “It is really intimate because the camera is so close, whereas at the Met you have to project to an audience hundreds of feet away.” Principal dancer at New York’s American Ballet Theater, the Dakotan bridged the transatlantic gap in a historic milestone as the first American to join Moscow’s prestigious Bolshoi Ballet in 2011, now spanning the distance as leading man at both. The cultural polymath dominated the pages of April’s American Vogue, shot by photographer Annie Leibovitz in a dramatic editorial, and he also featured in the latest issue of CR Fashion Book, now seating him firmly in the eye-line of the fashion masses, and dance enthusiasts, alike. 

    David wears white shirt by SIKI IM, khaki pants and shoes by Marc Jacobs.

    (Read More)

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