As a self-confessed balletomane, I suppose I have to say something about last week’s startling news, Sergei Polunin’s exit from the Royal Ballet – and, judging by the latest story in the Daily Telegraph, even possibly from dancing altogether (the Telegraph isn’t my regular news source, incidentally! - far too centre-right for me, but their arts coverage is usually good).
I have to admit I am not as overwhelmed by the loss of Mr Polunin as some. Yes, he is a very showy technician. Cor blimey, what a jump. Cor BLIMEY, what entrechats... And yes, he has a splendidly haughty, princely stage presence, and he is fantastically good-looking (provided you like cheekbones). But I’m afraid I had rather got him labelled in my mind as not-fully-formed, because for my money he didn’t always seem terribly engaged dramatically. There are some more disengaged chaps around, but there are also chaps at the RB I’d much rather see.
When I saw a little while ago that it was going to be Mr Polunin dancing in “Marguerite and Armand” with Tamara Rojo I was a bit worried. Ms Rojo is not only a phenomenal technician, she also acts with every breath in her body, and it is a real pain when one sees her paired with a bloke who looks blankly at her and doesn’t engage at all. I can think of one young man, who shall remain nameless, going through the motions with perfect, bland accomplishment while at his side Ms Rojo emitted passion down to her fingernails.
Luckily in “Marguerite and Armand” Mr Polunin came out of his shell and gave a tremendous performance, totally spot-on dramatically as well as technically. For the first time I could really see why some of the papers had been acclaiming him as the next Really Huge Big Star. He had a real chemistry with Ms Rojo and the performance was very, very good. But Ms Rojo was the real star, even then.
I know I’m not an expert and I’ve obviously been missing some extra fillip of terrificness in those jumps, entrechats etc. But my main feeling is more one of sadness for Mr Polunin. It’s such a waste, that a talented young man who could have been a Big Star (even if he wasn’t really one yet) has apparently flipped slightly and chucked in one of the very top jobs in his profession. It seems a real shame, and no-one should have to be so stressed by their work that they reach that stage. Who knows what went on behind the scenes? – certainly not me. But I hope he gets his life sorted out. If he truly doesn’t want to go on in the dance world, I hope he finds something else to do, something to which he is genuinely committed. As it is, it just looks as though Mr Polunin was the “short-twitch muscle” equivalent of Ed no.1; not so much blessed as blessed-and-cursed by his enormous potential.
And in the meantime while we wait to see what the poor lad decides to do next, at least in the world of ballet everyone is used to sudden cast changes and to stepping in at short notice to fill a gap. Anyone who had booked to see Mr Polunin as Oberon in Ashton’s “The Dream”, opening tonight, will get Steven McRae instead, and one can hardly feel short-changed by that (I had booked to see Mr McRae anyway, but then for my money he already is a Star – I’d pay good money to watch him stand at the side of the stage and look thoughtful).
Not much to report on my own account at the moment. My head cold is coming out (cue loud sneeze) and my first day in the new job has gone quietly. Now I’m off home to eat curry and try to finish Fairy Story number 2. All the main characters are now under enchantments of one kind or another, and I have a big confrontation scene to write as they face off with the twin sorcerers who are responsible. Eee, should be fun!