Sergei Polunin

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Sergei Polunin
Sergei Polunin Allan Warren.jpg
Polunin in 2013
Sergei Vladimirovich Polunin

(1989-11-20) 20 November 1989 (age 32)
CitizenshipUkraine, Russia, Serbia
OccupationBallet dancer, actor
Years active2006–present
Partner(s)Elena Ilinykh (engaged)

Sergei Vladimirovich Polunin (Ukrainian: Сергій Володимирович Полунін, Serhiy Volodymyrovych Polunin; Russian: Сергей Владимирович Полунин; born 20 November 1989) is a Ukrainian-born ballet dancer, actor and model. He has Ukrainian,[1] Russian,[1] and Serbian[2] citizenship, but has "always regarded himself as Russian".[3]

Born in Kherson, Ukrainian SSR, Polunin started out in gymnastics before switching to ballet at the age of eight and attended the Kyiv State Choreographic Institute. After graduating, he joined the British Royal Ballet School at the age of 13 in 2003. Polunin has received numerous awards, including the Prix de Lausanne and Youth America Grand Prix in 2006, and in 2007 was named the Young British Dancer of the Year.[4] In 2010, at the age of 19, Polunin became the Royal Ballet's youngest ever principal dancer.

After two years, he quit the ballet company to focus on a freelance career. As a freelance principal dancer, Polunin has been a guest artist at various theaters worldwide[5][6][7] such as Royal Ballet,[8] Sadler's Wells Theatre,[9] Bolshoi Theatre,[10] Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Music Theatre,[5] La Scala Theatre,[11] Teatro San Carlo[12] and is currently permanent guest artist for the Bayerisches Staatsballet.[6]

Early life[]

Sergei Polunin was born in Kherson,[13] Ukrainian SSR. From the age of four to eight, he trained at a gymnastics academy, and then spent another four years at the Kyiv State Choreographic Institute.[14] His mother, Galina, moved with him to Kyiv, while his father, Vladimir Polunin, worked in Portugal to support them.[13][14]

Dancing career[]

2003–2013: Early years[]

After Polunin graduated from the Kyiv Choreographic Academy (КДХУ), he joined the British Royal Ballet School at the age of 13 in 2003, sponsored by the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation.[13][14] Polunin has received numerous awards, including the Prix de Lausanne and Youth America Grand Prix in 2006, and in 2007 was named the Young British Dancer of the Year.[4] He became a first soloist at the Royal Ballet in 2009. In June 2010, at the age of 20, Polunin became the Royal Ballet's youngest ever principal. The New York Times described Polunin as "a fabulous dancer, with a steely technique and beautiful line" in its review of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (2011)[15] when he danced as the Knave, who doubled as Alice's romantic interest.

After two successful years with the Royal Ballet, on 24 January 2012, Polunin announced his resignation from the company with immediate effect. He said he had become so unhappy that, "the artist in [him] was dying."[16][17] Several months later, in summer 2012, Polunin was invited to Russia by the artistic director of ballet of the two Russian theatres, Igor Zelensky, and became a principal dancer with the Stanislavsky Music Theatre and Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre.[18] In early April 2013, it was reported that Polunin had walked out on the Schaufuss Ballet's performance of Midnight Express just days before its opening night.[19]

2014–present: International recognition[]

He was first shown in the international spotlight in the role of Slavemaster/Sheppard in the 25th Anniversary The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall. Polunin was shortlisted as the best male dancer for the 2014 National Dance awards in the U.K.[20] In 2014, Polunin started his collaboration with the famed American photographer and music director David LaChapelle and took part in his new projects, including a dance video to the song "Take Me to Church" by Hozier in February 2015. The video went viral and exposed Polunin to a wider audience.[21] Polunin was the subject of the 2016 documentary film Dancer, directed by Steven Cantor, analyzing his childhood, training, and rise to international fame.[22]

In 2017, he set up Project Polunin, which aims to create new dance and ballet works for both stage and film. Project Polunin aims to bring together dancers, contemporary artists, musicians and choreographers from various creative backgrounds to work together.[23] In June 2018, a promotional video starring Polunin was featured in a grand ceremony of the reopening of the National Museum of Serbia after 15 years of renovation[24] and in July of the same year, Polunin performed on the Main Stage of the Serbian EXIT festival for the grand opening ceremony of 18th festival edition.[25] His performance was inspired by the festival's theme, dubbed EXIT Freedom. The company was reincorporated as Polunin Ink in 2018.[26]

In January 2019, Polunin was invited to perform in the Paris Opéra Ballet's performance of Swan Lake. The Ballet revoked the invitation 48 hours later after being notified of Polunin's recent homophobic and sexist Instagram posts that sparked international outrage, including from dancers within the Ballet.[27]

Polunin With President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and future students of the Sevastopol Academy of Choreography, 13 August 2019

Polunin and his company, Polunin Ink introduced three new productions of ballet in 2019. The first was "Rasputin", choreographed by Yuka Oishi and premiered in London Palladium in June; the show received generally negative reviews from London critics[28] but was later successfully shown in cities such as Zurich[29] and Tashkent.[citation needed] The second was on 26 August 2019, Polunin danced the role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet choreographed by Johan Kobborg and with Alina Cojocaru as Juliet, in the Arena of Verona to over 10,000 members in the audience[30] and to critical acclaim.[31][32] As the year closed, the third production of Polunin Ink, "Little Red and the Wolf",[33] choreographed by Ross Freddie Ray, music composed by Kirill Richter, and performed by Sergei Polunin, Laura Fernandez-Gromova, Johan Kobborg and premiered in Zaryadye Concert Hall, Moscow on 29 and 30 December 2019.[34][35] In 2019, he also performed in Dubai,[36] Israel,[37] Munich,[38] and Shanghai.[39] Noteworthy was the performance on 7 September 2019 when he was invited to dance at the ancient Buddhist temple Ninna-ji in Kyoto, Japan.[40] Branded as the "Encounter of the East and the West", efforts were put into illustrating the theme with artists from Europe and Asia performing on the stage. Polunin's outfit was a carefully crafted kimono specially designed and made by artist Kamida Kazumak and with the calligraphy of the Heart Sutra,[41] which teaches the illusion of the phenomenal world,[42] written on the outfit by calligrapher, Tomoko Kawao.[41][43] The performance was later broadcast nationwide in Japan.[44]

Polunin was recognized as the Personality of the Year by Danza & Danza Awards 2019 (Premio D&D-Mario Bedendo), for which the jury wrote: "A multi-faceted artist... he and his Polunin Ink company scored not one but two goals in 2019",[45] namely, "a 'modern' take on the twentieth-century classic Romeo & Juliet where Polunin gave a powerful, passionate performance opposite Alina Cojocaru",[45] and “Rasputin a memorable dance-drama in which Sergei outdid himself".[45]

Performances and projects[]

Polunin in Richard MacDonald's studio


  • Prize Winner, Serge Lifar International Ballet Competition (2002)
  • Gold medal and Audience Award, the Prix de Lausanne (2006)
  • Winner, Youth America Grand Prix /YAGP/ (2006)
  • Gold medal, Serge Lifar International Ballet Competition in Kyiv (2006)
  • The Young British Dancer of the year in the United Kingdom (2007)
  • Critics' Circle National Dance Awards for the Best Male Dancer (2010)[63]
  • Critics' Circle National Dance Awards for the Best Classical Male Dancer (2011)[64]
  • Winner, Russian TV-project and competition Big Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet (2012)
  • Soul of Dance award (Russian Ballet magazine, 2014)
  • Personality of the Year, Danza& Danza Awards (2019) (Italian magazine)[65]

Acting career[]

Polunin made his feature film debut in the 2017 adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, followed by a performance in the 2018 film Red Sparrow.[66][67] Also in 2018, he appeared as Yuri Soloviev in the Rudolf Nureyev biopic The White Crow, directed by Ralph Fiennes.[68]

Personal life[]

As of 2020, Polunin is engaged to Russian ice dancer Elena Ilinykh.[69][70] On 16 January 2020, their son, Mir, was born in Miami, Florida, U.S.[70] Along with a number of other celebrities, Polunin was granted Serbian citizenship in 2017, for his work in promoting the country and its culture.[2][71]

In November 2018, Polunin posted on his Instagram account voicing support for Russian President Vladimir Putin.[1][72] In December 2018, Polunin expressed admiration and support for U.S. President Donald Trump in another Instagram post.[73][74]


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