A letter of encouragement to Sergei Polunin


Dear Sergei,

I watched the documentary Dancer, which premiered in the Netherlands only recently. It was hands down the best movie I saw this year, and I suspect it will hold that spot for the months to come.

Two years ago I shared your farewell to ballet, the video Take me to Church, along with nineteen million others. But little did we know about your life, and the loneliness of being taken from your home and the loss of your family. And we didn’t know about the ballet industry. That at the time the money should be coming in to make up for a ruined childhood, the ballet industry prevents their talent from becoming independent professionals. The contract system bears closest resemblance to slavery, something the Western world prides themselves in having no part at. The Royal Ballet, and every other ballet like it, violates human rights and children’s rights in a way we only see in third world countries. We can only hope this movie has opened their eyes, and that once they know better, they do better.

So by now you have set up a management agency and a new theater company Project Polunin. You have become very much aware that keeping dancers cut off from nurturing guidance and legal representation has been the magical ingredient in keeping all ballet companies afloat. No wonder you felt miserable. No wonder you wanted to quit. At least your parents had their own background of poverty to validate why they made the radical choice to sacrifice your childhood for your future. And yes, of course that is what psychologists will say is what caused your despair and downfall to drugs. But I think it’s absolutely brilliant that you understood it was more than that. That you are designing an alternative for the shackles of slavery in the ballet world.

It is my prediction that claiming your own power has been or will be, the key to dropping your dependency on drugs to ease your mental pain. Now I’m no addiction expert, nor do I know in how much pain your body is, but I really think that your newfound path of financial and artistic freedom will give you the same level of purpose you had as a child. Your new intrinsic motivation will make you want to show up for your art, and to show up for your new found audience who come for the artist Sergei. I m so very damn positive that one day you will just know that you’re done with drugs. And until then I won’t judge you in any way for using them.

One question I do want to bring up here. And this is not something that I can verify because I m not enough of an expert. But either way, I read experts are saying that in your new independent show you are not performing at your old level. So the question is will you ever physically push yourself like when you still worked for the companies? Will your dancing ever reach that level again? At the expense of your physical health. Because this is something all ballet lovers seem to agree on; like all sports, top-level ballet has disastrous effects on your body.

So will you ever push yourself the way you did?
I think this depends where you will go with your art. What will your message be?
I think it’s fully understandable if your message is that no one in their right minds should become a top level dancer. And that your work will focus on creative expression.
A second option is that you create a new training program, showing the world that dancers don’t need to suffer to that level to be brilliant. That the whip of the master literally does more harm that good.
And then there is a third option (I m just brainstorming here – I m sure there are more!) where you incorporate the pain, endurance and suffering into the very art you’re making. Think Marina Abramovic. This could still be harmful for your body, but you would bring the sacrifice into the spotlight. Your endurance and pain to be the greatest dancer of your generation, would be the art itself.

If just like Marina, you would perform at the MoMa for 750 hours, like hell that would be art!

~ Lauren

I m currently publishing my eight books.
You can read the manuscripts online for a limited time (English and Dutch)
And if I had put only 1% of the Sergei’s dance efforts into publishing my books,
I would have won a fucking Pulitzer by now ;)