There are a few things artistic that I have experienced in my life that make me cry with joy. Every time I hear Matt Corby sing Brother, every time I hear Florence sing basically anything. Every time I watch Leo in Baz’s ROMEO AND JULIET, the first time I saw Swan Lake at the ballet, every time I see unadulterated human compassion and also a viral video off Facebook earlier this year. A video of a ballet dancer in a beautifully lit shack dancing his heart out to Hozier’s Take Me to Church. It effects me on a soul level when an artist or a person opens their soul and lets go and just becomes their art.
When you hear Corby, Florence, watch Leo and see Sergei Polunin do their art they are beyond the bounds of their art, they have ascended to another level – it is perfection to watch and it just makes me cry at the amazement of it.
BY JASON KING
DANCER is the documentary that explores a viral video from Youtube of Sergei Polunin. If you haven’t seen it – just stop reading and watch the below video…………
OK – done? Now we can continue. Me, like the other sixteen million people who viewed it fell in love with it. Me like probably 15.9 million people didn’t know the story behind the video, it isn’t just a music video of a sublime dancer, it is the culmination of a troubled dancing prodigy. The signature and sign off from the supposed Bad Boy of Dancing, the ballet extraordinaire, Sergei Polunin.
Sergei Polunin has spent most of his life dancing, from age eight he was being touted as a prodigy, a dancer so natural and so gifted he would become world famous. He spent every waking moment dancing and loved it. His mother pushed him so he would find a life better than their family’s and make something of his life and future. It worked, but at a cost. He became a tortured genius and like all geniuses the lack of stimuli made him react to his situation. He rebelled, he did everything by the full measure, tattoos, lots of alcohols, lots of drugs and partying and not turning up to rehearsals.
Didn’t matter, he was still a genius, if a somewhat unpredictable one, whenever he was on the dance floor. He became the principal dancer for the Royal British Ballet, a position people train their entire lives for but after a while it bored him and he reacted again and just resigned, something unheard of. Because of this no one would hire him, so he went to Russia and started at the bottom again. He rose quickly, then got bored again and left.
He was troubled, he had basically done it all, and genius struggled, where can it go, what can it do next? Polunin came up with the idea to retire, a rumour I heard was he was planning on becoming an actor in America. His retirement plan was to make a video of him dancing his last, a passion project in his own style, and then move on. Did anyone imagine it would go so ballistic. He eventually returned to dancing, someone so gifted can’t leave it, of course they are tortured by it, it is the romance of it all for us, but for them a Shakespearean tragedy. Polunin’s issue is he needs to embrace what he loves about dancing, do it forever for the love he has for it, not because he is good at it.
Steven Cantor’s documentary is brilliantly made, it covers most of Polunin’s life with footage of him as a youngster through to present. It beautifully captures the genius, the dancing, the struggles and the rebellion. It doesn’t paint him as a victim, it portrays his life journalistically and it slow builds culminating in the TAKE ME TO CHURCH – it is a perfect climax to the documentary.
David LaChapelle’s video of Polunin is a work of art, it is stunning. One might think, however, that the making of footage in this dance video was all part of a long term plan to make this short video as a future trailer for a possible documentary.
If you love dancing, genius, people at the top of their game and things of beauty then DANCER is for you. I am glad to have discovered this backstory to a four minute dancing video I loved. And more than anything I am glad to have gotten to know the prodigy that is Sergei Polunin, a total dancing crush for me now haha. DANCER is out now at most art-house cinemas from Vendetta Films – get into it!
Jason King owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movieindustry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan.
** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.