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.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.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.
Documentaries are sometimes the best form of film because they take something true, which is either remarkable in itself, or the context in which they present the truth is remarkable. This documentary is evidence of the former.
Sergei was born to a family of modest means in Southern Ukraine and as a baby was hyper mobile, which lends itself to gymnastics (his first enterprise) or ballet (his second as chosen by his mother - which is significant). By the age of 8 Sergei was destined for a ballet career for which his family made enormous sacrifices; his father and one of his grandmothers (maternal, I think) emigrated to work in the EU to support financially his ballet studies in Kiev. The cost of this to Sergei emerged when he was an adult and, sensationally, quit the English Royal Ballet where he was a Principal dancer.
In his teens Sergei joined the English Royal Ballet and by 19 he was a ballet sensation in the UK and gained notoriety a few years later because of his use of cocaine, self-harming and tattooes. I was curious about this young man psychologically; he danced like fire but was troubled. My one disappointment with the documentary, which prevents it being perfect, is that only the surface psychology of Sergei is presented. To be fair to the director he arrived in Sergei's life when the latter was at his most cynical and least trusting. The film took 5 years to make but to know Sergei probably takes a lot longer. Nonetheless the niggle remains.
What the film gives in abundance is footage of Sergei dancing and Sergei filmed by his mother and then the English Royal Ballet as he grows up. The visual impact of Sergei's body with tattooes and scars is an aesthetic marvel. My favourite piece of the film was Sergei on-and-off stage whilst dancing in Spartacus in Siberia where we see the man suffering for his art and his damaged feet. There is private footage too, which is endearing as Sergei's warmth, sense of fun and sincerity abounds.
If you love dance, you will like this film. If you marvel at what the human body can do physically, you will like this film. If you want a very human story of sacrifice in the quest to improve the lot of the children, you will like this film. If you love, like or are remotely interested in Sergei, then this is a film for you. With his dance Sergei has gifted the cinematic world a unique form. He has abandoned ballet, by which he felt constrained and which was not his choice but that of his mother's, but is continuing to dance.
- Oct 9, 2016