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"LONDON — Variety has been given exclusive access to a clip from Steven Cantor’s feature-length documentary “Dancer,” about the “bad boy of ballet,” Ukrainian dancer Sergei Polunin. Variety spoke to Polunin, who was described by the Daily Telegraph as the “James Dean of the ballet world,” and the film’s producer, Gabrielle Tana, who picked up a nomination for the best picture Oscar with “Philomena.”
“Dancer” has been a passion project for Tana since she first met Polunin in 2012, after he quit the Royal Ballet in London. What started out as a documentary and seeing where it went, has evolved, and changed and grown. It’s become much more about making something together (with Polunin) and more of a collaboration. And when David LaChapelle (who contributed several clips) got involved it became more exciting, and it wasn’t just about documenting a life, but about creating something.”
Earlier this year, a music video featuring Polunin dancing to Hozier’s “Take Me to Church,” which was directed by LaChapelle, went viral on YouTube, recording 12.6 million views. What was the reason for the video’s popularity? “There was a lot of emotion going on through that dance when I was doing it, so maybe people feel the emotion and the energy, and David’s vision was important as well — the way he filmed it,” Polunin says.
Polunin adds that the authenticity of the emotions displayed in the music video was important. “That cannot be faked. So maybe people like it because it is so real, and it is something positive and good.” Polunin expresses the view that there is too much negativity exhibited in a lot of films.“It is hard to make a hit with something that is beautiful, and maybe people haven’t seen that for a long time, something pure… David is a pure artist. He is an incredible artist. I haven’t met anybody like that. Through that video, he showed that he has a purity.”
The music video was supposed to be the last time Polunin danced. “I had decided to quit and the David LaChapelle piece was supposed to be my last dance,” Polunin says. “But dancing that piece, and thanks to the influence of Gabby and David, I realized that I loved dance. They are so cool and influential, and they love dance, so I was like: ‘It might be something I should come back to.”
Polunin intends to work again with LaChapelle on a new films that is in the works. “It will be really interesting; unlike anything most people have seen before,” he says. Tana also will be involved the new project, which is in development. “It’s more of a dance narrative with actors and a lot of dance. He has an idea that he is developing. It is exciting,” says Tana."
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