At the Stanislavsky, Polunin found what many thought he had lacked in London — a mentor in the shape of the theater’s ballet director, the great Russian dancer Igor Zelensky, who has spearheaded ambitious new projects since taking his post in June 2011.
“Igor Zelensky understands me. He believed in me and that is very important. Because not many people did,” Polunin said.
He admitted that “you get hooked” on the financial rewards that come with being an international ballet star and said the fame can be an addiction in itself.
“But once you have been there and come out you realize how stupid this is. It’s important, like Igor told me, to ‘stay and do what you do.’”
He revealed he had received offers for film work, including from Hollywood, but said they had been for “secondary roles” that would have been “risky” to take.
Polunin’s success has been a huge coup for the Stanislavsky at a time of great turbulence for the Bolshoi ballet after an assailant threw acid on its director Sergei Filin, nearly blinding him in an attack purportedly organized by an embittered former soloist.
Filin had headed the Stanislavsky ballet until his appointment at the Bolshoi in 2011.
The Stanislavsky — whose unwieldy full name, Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theater, commemorates Russian theater greats Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko — has a loyal audience in Moscow, where it is known affectionately as the Stasik.
Polunin is treated with huge sensitivity at the theater, where he is known to everyone as Seryezha, the Russian diminutive of his name. Despite his unorthodox approach, he brings a fierce intensity to his work.
The theater now needs to find new challenges for Polunin, who admits he loses interest if things become routine. A new production of MacMillan’s ballet Manon is planned, starring the Ukrainian.
“If there was no Bayadere or Manon coming up I would probably lose a lot of interest. There would be less stress. But you always have to move forwards,” he said.