‘Build your own establishment’: How ‘blacklisted’ ballet star Sergei Polunin handles his critics
Blacklisted in Ukraine and under fire from critics abroad, ballet superstar Sergei Polunin is no stranger to controversy. The contentious dancer joined RT to discuss how he handles his detractors.
Last year, Polunin found himself on Ukraine’s artistic blacklist. Since 2014, hundreds of Russian performers, films and television series have been banned in the country amid ongoing disputes with Moscow. After a performance in Crimea, the dancer was warned not to come back to his home country.
“I was unfortunately blacklisted in Ukraine,” Polunin told Afshin Rattansi on RT’s Going Underground. “I cannot enter the country, and they wanted to take my passport away, but they couldn’t legally.
“One of the people in the cultural department in Ukraine called me and said ‘Do not cross the border, because you will be taken,’” he said, adding with a laugh: “For dancing, yes.”
Though born in Ukraine, Polunin holds joint Russian-Ukrainian-Serbian citizenship.
The dancer’s internet commentary has also landed him in hot water, with controversial remarks ranging from telling male ballet dancers they are too effeminate and need to “man up,” to his public praise of Russian President Vladirmir Putin. The former was seen as an attack on gay dancers and got him fired from a production of ‘Swan Lake’ at the Paris Opera Ballet. Poluin said he believes more people agree with his point of view than is apparent from the public reaction alone.
It’s weird. As a human being, we all have different opinions, but as a collective mind you have to stay one way, and if you don’t think that way you get kicked out
Polunin added that “a lot of people agree with me, but… they have to go and publicly say otherwise.”
Aside from some lawmakers in Kiev, most of Polunin’s critics reside outside of state officialdom. The ballet star said that although criticism could be damaging, he encouraged other artists to look beyond the detractors and build their “own establishment.”
“Critics can really ruin support that you have. When you get bad critics… people stop believing in you, especially in the UK, and that can be very, very tough,” Polunin said, adding that “it’s not always helpful for art and artists.”
If you know where you’re going, if you have straight vision… if you have amazing people around you who you have to trust, nothing can stop you. You build your own establishment.
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“I’m thankful people are writing about me,” Polunin added, regardless of whether the attention is positive or negative.
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