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 30)
CitizenshipUkraine, Russia, Serbia
OccupationBallet dancer, actor
Years active2006–present

Sergei Vladimirovich Polunin (Ukrainian: Сергій Володи́мирович Полу́нін, Serhiy Volodymyrovych Polunin; Russian: Серге́й Влади́мирович Полу́нин, Sergey Vladimirovich Polunin; born 20 November 1989) is a Ukrainian-born ballet dancer, actor and model. He has Ukrainian,[1][2] Russian,[1][2] and Serbian[2] citizenship.

Born in Kherson, Ukrainian SSR, Polunin started out in gymnastics before switching to ballet at the age of eight and attended the Kiev 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.[3] In 2010, at the age of 20, 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[4][5][6] such as Royal Ballet,[7] Sadler's Wells Theatre,[8] Bolshoi Theatre,[9] Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Music Theatre,[4] La Scala Theatre,[10] Teatro San Carlo[11] and is currently permanent guest artist for the Bayerisches Staatsballet.[5]

Early life[edit]

Sergei Polunin was born in Kherson,[12] Ukrainian SSR. From the age of four to eight, he trained at a gymnastics academy, and then spent another four years at the Kiev State Choreographic Institute.[13] His mother, Galina, moved with him to Kiev, while his father, Vladimir Polunin, worked in Portugal to support them.[12][13]



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.[12][13] 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.[3] 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)[14] 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."[15][16] 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.[17] 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.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20] Polunin was the subject of the 2016 documentary film Dancer, directed by Steven Cantor, analyzing his childhood, training, and rise to international fame.[21]

Recently, 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.[22] 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[23] 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.[24] His performance was inspired by the festival's theme, dubbed EXIT Freedom.

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.[25] In response to those critical of his comments, he said, "a lot of people agree with me, but… they have to go and publicly say otherwise".[26]

On 26 August 2019, he danced the role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet by Johan Kobborg with Alina Cojocaru in the Arena of Verona to over 10,000 audience[27] and critical acclaim.[28] On 7 September 2019, he was invited to dance at Ninna-ji (the head temple of the Omuro school of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism);[29] in that performance, he wore the costume with the calligraphy of the Heart Sutra written on it by calligrapher Tomoko Kawao. [30] The performance was broadcast nationwide on 3 November 2019.[31]


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.[32][33] Also in 2018, he appeared as Yuri Soloviev in the Rudolf Nureyev biopic The White Crow, directed by Ralph Fiennes.[34]

Personal life[edit]

Along with a number of other celebrities, Polunin was granted Serbian citizenship in 2017, for his work in promoting the country and its culture.[35][36]

In November 2018, Polunin posted on his Instagram account voicing support for Russian President Vladimir Putin.[1][37] In December 2018, Polunin expressed admiration and support for U.S. President Donald Trump in another Instagram post.[38][39]

Performances and projects[edit]

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 Kiev (2006)
  • The Young British Dancer of the year in the United Kingdom (2007)
  • Critics' Circle National Dance Awards for the Best Male Dancer (2010)[57]
  • Critics' Circle National Dance Awards for the Best Classical Male Dancer (2011)[58]
  • Winner, Russian TV-project and competition Big Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet (2012)
  • Soul of Dance award (Russian Ballet magazine, 2014)


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  21. ^ Kourlas, Gia (15 September 2016). "Review: Bad Boy of the Royal Ballet Regains His Footing in 'Dancer'". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
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  27. ^ 10,000 audience
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  29. ^ "Ninnaji OTOBUTAI". Retrieved 25 September 2019.
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  33. ^ "How a Dance Dream Team Turned Jennifer Lawrence Into a Ballerina". Retrieved 6 July 2018.
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  35. ^ Vasović, Aleksandar (15 September 2017). "Serbia grants citizenship to actor Ralph Fiennes". Reuters. Retrieved 30 June 2018. Fiennes is the last in a string of celebrities including Hollywood actor Steven Segal, ballet dancer Sergei Polunin and several soccer and basketball players to have been granted citizenship in recent years.
  36. ^ Adanja Polak, Mira (17 December 2017). "RTS :: Mira Adanja Polak: Ekskluzivno". (in Serbian). Radio Television of Serbia. Retrieved 30 June 2018. Sergej Polunin baletan svetskog glasa koji je nedavno postao državljanin Srbije želi da u našoj zemlji provede više vremena.
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  38. ^ Kut, Andry (24 December 2018). "Ukrainian dancer with a tattoo of Putin's Declaration of love to Trump".
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External links[edit]