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Sergei Polunin: Contemporary Dance Idol

In form, style and dance, the world-acclaimed dancer, Sergei Polunin has been a tremendous inspiration to global contemporary dance and has directly influenced my works not only during this degree program but also over the last few years with his presence, style and grace.

It is important to look at his origins to understand his assent and how he set himself apart from the other artists.  Born in Ukraine during the final days of the communist era, Sergei was originally a gymnast and converted to ballet at age 8.  The early gymnastic training and experiences greatly strengthened and improved his athletic abilities and served as a good foundation for his career in ballet, and eventually further into contemporary dance.

Showing great potential and promise at age 13; Sergei was accepted at the Royal Ballet School in London.  His dance talent and strength earned him a number of prestigious awards and fame at an early age.  Sergei was named the Young British Dancer of the year becoming the youngest ever-principal dancer at The Royal Ballet at age 20.  However, after two years he quit The Royal Ballet and endeavoured on a freelance dance career changing his style from a pure ballet performance to a contemporary abstract dance style with heavy ballet influences.  He created his own original form and dance identity using minimalistic stage setting purposely to allow the audience to focus on the dancers and not on the surrounding settings.  He demonstrates that to distinguish oneself above the rest of the artists, one should create a unique artistic identity.    

My admiration for him grew greater after attending a recent contemporary dance performance of Sergei Polunin in London; his dancing and acting abilities mesmerized me to develop the free form aspect of my dance theme.  For me, he serves as a visual model in form and pose as the penultimate present-day dance figure to paint on my canvas.  The strength of his leaps and strict line of his form are world-class and a delight to any viewer.  His dance is full of emotion and exploding with power and controlled grace.  In order to precisely paint dance, one needs to see a true deity of dance. The visual satisfaction of this performance inspired me to create two paintings under the theme of contemporary ballet dance titled ‘Trust’ and ‘Ballet Perch’.   It was important for me to show the strength of his talent and the flow of his skills.  The clean lines of the figures are a bit out of focus in the paintings to represent a dream-like visual or a kind of memory image within a colour cloudy stage setting… 

Claudia Kusznirczuk, Ballet Perch, 2019

… and then further bigger than life within an imaginary nocturnal landscape.  These paintings are from imprinted imagines from my memory of the performance.


Claudia Kusznirczuk, Trust, 2019

Profoundly he has provided a new perspective to my view of dance and its portrayal with the understanding that it is important for my paintings to demonstrate the implicit motion of the dance with added originality and focus more on the performers in combination with an imaginary background whether natural or stage setting.

My interest and following of Sergei lead me to watch ‘The White Crow’.  Although he has a small role in the movie, however, the movie incited strong correlations to my past and the trials and tribulations of life during the communist era where only the strong and unique were able to overcome the oppressive barriers. 

The film is about the life of Rudolf Nureyev and his pursuit and courage to escape communism through his wonderful talent. 


He, as well, created a unique style of dance and evolved the skills that inspired Sergei Polunin and further enticed me to endeavour in developing various forms of dance onto still canvas depictions.

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