Rising star Polunin resigns as Royal Ballet principal
Sergei Polunin is one of the biggest stars in ballet. At the age of 19 he became the youngest male dancer ever to be made a principal at the Royal Ballet. For more than a decade he’s dedidated his life to dance. But in recent months there’ve been concerns that his dedication may have been waning.
In an interview in The Independent late last year he admitted to skipping classes, not eating or sleeping properly, and needing to have a life outside ballet. And he’s frequently talked about his ‘crazy’ nights out on twitter, waking up at 4.30 in the afternoon and on one occasion joking about having to drink a beer in the morning.
Yesterday all this came to a head when he shocked the dance world by resigning from the Royal Ballet – with immediate effect – and nobody knows why.
Of course, life as a principal dancer at a company like the Royal Ballet is famously tough. Dancers have to attend class every morning, rehearse in the afternoon and often perform in the evening. And outside ballet, their lifestyle needs to be one of self-control and even abstinence – particularly for male dancers, who need the strength to lift their female partners.
It’s possible Polunin may be struggling to cope with these pressures, rebelling against them, or may have just decided that he no longer wants to live with them.
On the other hand, he may have decided that a professional career within a big, structured company may not be for him. The Royal Ballet has an extraordinarily wide repertory, from the classics through to the Ashton and MacMillan work through to more recent work created on the company by star choreographers Christopher Wheeldon and Wayne McGregor. It’s known to be understanding when its dancers want to travel around the world and perform at lucrative galas – which can not only boost their earnings but also bolster their profile. But even so, a dancer’s first duty will always be to his or her company. And ultimately, he or she always has to work around the schedule they’re given – and the roles they’re asked to dance.
Many dancers perform better – and are happier – once they’ve broken out of the inevitable restrictions that come from working for any top level company, such as the Ballet Boyz, who first made their mark dancing for the Royal Ballet but really hit their stride when they left to set up on their own. Others have spoken about feeling constricted while dancing for a big company, or feeling that their self-expression is suppressed.
Sergei Polunin’s feelings are still unclear. But the Royal Ballet has made it clear that the door is open for him to return. He had been due to perform with the company in The Dream next Wednesday. It’s understood that his role will be played by another dancer.