Ballet’s ‘bad boy’ Sergei Polunin bounds back on to centre stage

Dancer apologises for latest mystery walk-out but says he’s ready to return

Gifted Ukrainian Sergei Polunin, dubbed “ballet’s bad boy” after he stunned the dance world with a public walkout from the Royal Ballet, today apologised for a more recent flight and admitted he has a “love-hate” relationship with the art form.

Polunin, who became the Royal Ballet’s youngest male principal dancer at the age of 19, disappointed London fans last month when he quit a production of Midnight Express at the London Coliseum just days before the first night. He revealed that a health issue had forced him to pull out. “I want to apologise to the audience because I couldn’t even explain at that time,” he said, before adding that he still could not give specific details about the specific ailment. “Not yet, maybe one day I will.”

The dancer, described as a “once in a decade” performer, apologised as it was announced he would perform Coppélia – the story of a man who falls in love with a life-like doll – at the Coliseum in London in July with the Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet, his “home” company. Asked whether audiences could rely on him to appear, he said: “You have to take things day-by-day ... but it’s pretty certain I will come.”

His Midnight Express exit followed an earlier much-publicised walkout on Covent Garden last year for which he has given a variety of explanations including the pressure of the art form and falling out of love with ballet. Asked whether that feeling had changed he said: “Not really, it’s a love-hate relationship,” he said.

His lifestyle choices were highlighted after he quit the Royal Ballet last year. With concerns raised over talk of clubbing, hard partying, skipping lessons, as well as his decision to buy into a tattoo parlour. He also talked about the distractions of London and the West, saying that in Russia “it’s great because you can concentrate 100 per cent on your work”.

Despite all this, Polunin rejected the “bad boy” tag. “It’s not being bad; it’s about trying to find yourself,” he said, adding that he had not necessarily found himself yet. “It’s strange how people take you,” he added and  insisted his decision to quit the Royal Ballet was justified citing his “rise” since he decided to leave one of the world’s leading companies. He says he is in demand around the globe and travels constantly. “I don’t have time to party; I’m always on the plane. I do miss the company feeling, and the partying. That is important sometimes.”

Vladimir Urin, general director of the Stanislavsky Ballet, said Polunin was not known as a bad boy in Russia, adding: “He is a good boy.” In Russia, Polunin has become a household name after appearing on a Strictly Come Dancing-style show focusing on ballet, seen by millions of Russians.

“Russia is probably the best place to work as a ballet dancer at the moment,” he said. There, tickets for his performances sell-out a year in advance. “It’s better for me there,” he said.

As well as dancing around the world, his plans include a documentary with 3D choreography for the cinema, in English, and he also aims to perform in Chechnya for the first time. “I want to do as much as I can,” he said.

Midnight Express was produced by Peter Schaufuss’s company, and Schaufuss is also involved in the forthcoming Coppélia. It was unclear how cordial the pair are. They sat together at the press conference and while a professional relationship remains, Polunin said they were not friends. “I always respect Peter as a dancer and as a director. We’ve never made friends but I respect him,” he said.

Schaufuss was “delighted” Polunin was dancing in London, adding: “Once in a while a dancer comes along with special technique, special powers, special talent. Not just good technique, but dancers who bring a special quality to the stage. Every decade has such a dancer, or two or three. It’s something you can’t learn … it’s genetic.”

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing