Sergei Polunin Abruptly Leaves Royal Ballet

The life of a professional ballet dancer is very demanding. Why did Sergei Polunin abruptly leave Royal Ballet?

Youngest Principal Dancer Sergei Polunin Resigns Royal Ballet. Image: Video excerpt.

Yesterday, we got the unexpected news: “Sergei Polunin Abruptly Leaves Royal Ballet.” London balletomanes were in shock as were ballet lovers around the world. What could have pushed Royal Ballet’s youngest ever principal dancer and most promising member to walk out a week before performances?

Sergei Polunin Abruptly Leaves Royal Ballet

Polunin’s unprecedentedly abrupt departure was front-page news, but the 22-year-old star has long been food for headlines. His teenage debut as the snorting, tiger-slaying hero in the 1877 melodrama La Bayadère prompted comparisons with the young Rudolf Nureyev and, for once, the hype was justified: the same supercharged classicism; the same haughty sensuality; the same instinctive mastery of stagecraft.

At only 19, he became Covent Garden’s youngest-ever male principal dancer and began systematically working his way through the great roles of the repertoire – to universally ecstatic reviews.

Article source from The Telegraph.

Video Source: YouTube – Channel 4 of the UK.

Other sources suggest Polunin might accept an engagement with another company, where the schedule is less rigid and artists are permitted a looser affiliation. American Ballet Theatre has recently lost its own golden boy, David Hallberg, to the Bolshoi and would love to have a replacement like Polunin, who is as good as all the headlines suggest – not only technically gifted, but graced with the poetry of stage presence, musical instincts and an intelligent dramatic sense. Another contender would be the Mikhailovsky Ballet in St Petersburg, which has private money to spend and, with Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev already signed up, an apparent determination to become the new supertroupe of the ballet world. (The Mikhaikovsky insists it had nothing to do with Polunin’s departure from the Royal, yet hasn’t denied the possibility of a future discussion.)

But it would be wrong to overstate the drama of Polunin’s case. There’s a long line of dancers who have flown nests that they’ve found too small or too uncomfortable, from Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov to Carlos Acosta – even Anthony Dowell, the most classically English of dancers, left the Royal for a couple of season to spread his wings in New York.

But there are two things that hit hard with Polunin. For all of us in London who have felt lucky to be watching a career like this in the making, his departure feels a horrible loss. And it’s a worrying one, too. The abruptness of his going, combined with the rackety image he presented of himself via Twitter – sleeping until late afternoon, starting the morning with a beer, making gnomic comments about living fast and dying young – suggest he’s in a fragile, volatile state. At the point where he seems to be craving independence, Polunin may also be most in need of steady guidance. It’s the kind of guidance you would hope he would get from inside a company. And which some are hoping, even now, the Royal might be able to reach out to Polunin and persuade their prodigal son to return.

Read full report from The Guardian.

Emilia Spitz, of the BalletBag blog, said: “He is very young still. It probably is difficult to handle all that pressure. He has talked of not being quite ready for some of the responsibility… This could be part of the ‘Money Ballet’ trend where companies are offering advantageous contracts to star dancers.”

For more from BalletBag and Sergei Polunin, click here.

Similar headlines around the world have surfaced: Sergei Polunin Abruptly Leaves Royal Ballet. It is a surprise and still a mystery which will surely be clarified in the days and weeks to come. We will just have to wait to find out.

News like this often makes me question the demanding life of ballet dancers, especially in major companies, like Royal Ballet. If you’re curious to learn more about how dancers live day-in and day-out, from studio to stage, write in the comment box below your questions. We will gladly answer them. Until next time.

About Romy Macias, Senior Editor

Romy danced with the Ballet Clasico de Queretaro Fernando Jhones for 10 years having reached 1st soloist position. She presently takes on character roles and teaches at the company's junior academy. This site is a testament to her passion for classical ballet. You're invited to be part of our community and join in the joy for this amazing art form.


  1. Many highly talented artists seem to be pretty temperamental, perhaps he just needs a strong woman to jerk that beer out of his hand in the mornings and set his young life into motion.

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