In late 2019, Dance Magazine wrote an unforgiving commentary titled "Can We Stop Talking About Sergei Polunin?" And our response was: why?
There are clusters of art, dance, video, music, and entertainment enthusiasts around the world who may have never watched four minutes of ballet, had Polunin (@poluninink) not presented his solo performance to Take Me to Church in such a compelling manner.
His video was a leap in terms of introducing ballet to digital audiences at large, but it was so much more than that. Objectively speaking, we have hardly seen a contemporary dance video that was so classic; hitting the running sentiment of a contemporary song with such befitting intensity. We saw a real, mature interaction of a classical dancer with a popular song, trapped with his reverberating emotions, inside a building. In so many ways, it was the "ideal" dance video; set to music that had automatically made us wish, upon listening, that an extraordinary classical dancer would perform to it. And Sergei did.
Polunin is sarcastically criticized for his supposed "failing" technique every passing year, with The Guardian recently proclaiming about one of his more recent performances, Rasputin, that "even a soloist at a major company could do some moves better."
That may or may not be correct, but what use is technique if it fails to make the audience connect?
Dance is not mere gymnastics, and when it comes to raw, visceral dance, Sergei Polunin can not be faulted; even if one does not subscribe to his views on politics, gender roles, health and fitness; or his infamous ballet company walkouts.
When did we start valuing politics so much as to completely denigrate a man's potential? Is he too much of an independent genius for all of us?
Sergei Polunin is for ballet what Estas Tonne is for guitar: intense, deep, spiritual, unpretentious. These men do not care about what the world thinks of them as long as they are true to themselves and their art.
And we respect that deeply in Sergei Polunin.