Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Sergei Polunin, wise counsel

Shock news of Sergei Polunin's resignation from the Royal Ballet emerged yesterday afternoon, though his final tweets indicate something was on his mind. I have an expensive ticket for the Dream on 1/2, Only two dancers, so without him, can the show go on in quite the same way? On the other hand, the ballet world is completely unnatural. Dancers are hothoused from childhood, because it's the only way to hone them like racehorses. Or turkeys for Xmas. Their shelf life is maximum aged 35, so they are almost programmed to burn out. If animals were treated like dancers, the industry would have been banned long ago. I cannot blame Polunin but respect him for protesting.

Trouble is, a dancer's best years coincide with the time when normal prople are finding themselves as human beings. They're athletes, so they are drilled into constant training. They can't do kid things like go on benders  or laze about, or make mistakes like everyone. Maybe sports stars get away with it because sports has street cred, and everyone "knows"sportsmen are buffoons. But a dancer inherits the burden of posterity. He or she has to live up to a tradition of artistic excellence.

In theory, dancers might think in terms of sacrificing their youth so they can look forward to a decent life afterwards. But only the very, very few make enough money for a comfortable retirement (aged 35?).In reality most have wrecked their bodies, which limits job prospects and lifestyle. Other people just don't understand when a young-looking person is crippled by muscle and joint pain. Besides, any decent artist lives for his/her art, so when that's gone, it's horribly frustrating. And every dancer, even at the top, knows it doesn't last.

So Polunin's right, even though his timing isn't. The Royal Ballet is being pretty gracious about the disruption, which is judicious because Polunin is still so young. Artists have temperament, they often don't think strategically, all the more reason they need wise counsel around them.  At 21, most people don't know what they want to do, so Polunin's normal. Who hasn't made dramatic decisions regretted in maturity? At least he knows there's something odd about the lifestyle. Those thousands of little girls in pink tutus, pushed by their mothers into Barbie-doll mode, continue to act out the fantasy especially if they don't go on to face the reality of a dancer's life. More power Sergei Polunin, all is not lost yet.

The photo is Nijinsky, L'apres-midi d'un faune. Remember what happened to the faun. And to Nijinsky.

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