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Digital Subscriptions > Attitude > 281 > DANCING THROUGH THE DARK

DANCING THROUGH THE DARK

HE BECAME KNOWN AS THE BAD BOY OF DANCE WHEN HE STORMED OUT OF THE ROYAL BALLET AND ADMITTED TO TAKING DRUGS. BUT NOW, SERGEI POLUNIN HAS TURNED HIS BACK ON HIS SELF-DESTRUCTIVE URGES AND A NEW DOCUMENTARY ABOUT HIS LIFE REVEALS A MUCH MORE SENSITIVE SIDE

“IT was so packed but it was crazy, it was fun.” Sergei Polunin is telling me about the last time he went to a gay club, on a night out with photographer David LaChapelle. Although he enjoyed himself, he was so anxious not to lead people on that he spent most of the night telling people he was straight. “There was actually one funny moment,” he says, “when someone came up to me and was like, ‘What’s your name?’ And I said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m not gay.’ And they said, ‘Is that your name?’.”

Polunin laughs and lashes me an arresting smile. Now 27, the Ukrainian dancer’s looks have caught up with his charisma and he’s grown into his sharp, angular features to become strikingly handsome.

He also has an intense sex appeal that’s enhanced by a strong accent and an emotional vulnerability he’s only recently become comfortable revealing.

Polunin joins Attitude on a break from filming Kenneth Branagh’s new adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, in which he stars opposite Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley and Penélope Cruz. He’s excited to talk about this and other career developments but I remind him that he’s here to talk about the past and not the future. It’s a past documented in the new film Dancer, which retraces Polunin’s childhood in Southern Ukraine, follows him to ballet school in the capital Kiev and then on to London, where he attended the Royal Ballet School before becoming the company’s youngest ever principal dancer, at the age of 19.

The film is sensitively made and blends insider interviews with archive footage to showcase the evolution of Polunin’s electrifying talent.

It’s also emotionally insightful, revealing the family break-up that led to his rebellion against ballet and then the build-up of pressure that resulted in him walking out of his job in January 2012. It was an event that generated headlines around the world and in the days that followed much was made of Polunin’s recreational drug use, the tattoos he had to cover up on stage, and his reputation as a firebrand.

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About Attitude

On the cover, Emma Watson and Dan Stevens discuss the gay surprise in the new Beauty and the Beast Also, exclusive interviews with Joan Collins on her new film The Time of Their Lives, Alison Goldfrapp in her most honest interview yet, and BBC news reporter James Longman on life on the frontline. Plus, Turner Prize winning artist Wolfgang Tillmans and ballet’s bad boy Sergei Polunin.
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