Film review premiere
Leichhardt Norton Theatre
November 25, 2016
Palace Norton Cinema proved to be an adequate forum for Dancer - a 2016 French biographical musical drama film offering an intimate look into the life and journey of Sergei Polunin, who became the world’s youngest ever principal dancer at the Royal Ballet School. Renowned for combining grace and power, we follow Polunin through his times in the highly competitive arena of artistic dancing, the physical and emotional toll it takes and the impact his career had on his family, parts of which immigrated to different parts of Europe to pay for his education,
What the film does well is documenting and witnessing it all without passing judgment.
It starts in the Ukraine, painting a picture of the dire circumstances Polunin emerged from and his family’s dedication to enable him to live a different, more prosperous and fulfilling life.
His relationship with his family, strained by his move to the UK is a red thread in The Dancer, with Polunin finding success in the world of elite dancing as the glue to reunite his family. There is an omnipresent sense of guilt for his families’ sacrifices and a focus on the artist being in emotional distress, confusion and torment while striving for perfection as a dancer.
The movie also portrays Polunin as a rock star and bad boy of the ballet scene with everything that comes with its consuming lifestyle, i.e. late night party escapades and debauchery – a view of him that he seems to cultivate and revel in.
The Dancer culminates in a full-length music video of Polunin dancing to Hozier's “Take Me to Church,” which was a viral internet success and seems to signify his rebirth, emancipation and liberation, which is ins stark contrast to the VHS home-video footage of Polunin capturing his growth as both a dancer and a man.
What makes the documentary relatable is that it is not sensationalistic but a sympathetic, multi-layered portrait of an artist in flux struggling with his isolation on the top of his craft, background, success, perfection, remorse and personal desires.
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