Dances with Wolves

Text by Naomi Bikis

Photography by Todd Cole

Styling by William Gilchrist

You don’t have to know anything about pliés or pas de deuxs to find fascination in ballet dancer Sergei Polunin’s story. From his early teens, this Ukrainian 22-year old, was a dancer with the Royal Ballet and, despite his youth, heralded as one of the most astonishing talents of his generation. At just 19 the Royal Ballet appointed him as the company’s youngest ever principal, his skill likened to the great virtuoso performers, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. And yet, in January last year, Polunin unexpectedly quit.

His shock departure made international headlines as the press speculated over reasons for his early exit. Rumours circulated over his pursuit of acting, a career in tattooing (his current ink count stands at 11) or that a relationship break-up was to blame. What else was this restless dancer going to do? The answer came from another creative industry – fashion.

When Dior Homme opened their Miami boutique in the Design District last December, they commissioned photographer and Floridan native Bruce Weber to create a film that would become a permanent installation at the store. Working together with Dior Homme’s creative director Kris van Assche, the pair recruited a cast of talented individuals; the English violinist Charlie Siem, 12-year-old musical prodigy Claudius Agrippa, pianist Mason Buccheri and Polunin. “Miami is my hometown,” Weber explains, “and also the hometown of a great ballet company and orchestra – and, last but not least, the hometown of the Miami Heat! I made this film with my love for classical music in mind and how, just sometimes, the wildness of the fourth quarter of a baseball game is like the giant leap of a ballet dancer.”

Polunin’s giant leap of faith may be onto an entirely different stage but it comes as little surprise that he should find himself subject to the fashion world’s keen attention. He is a model with poise, grace and, of course, an extraordinary ability to move. And, his dramatic walkout was not the end of a glittering ballet career. This April, Polunin will play the lead in Midnight Express, directed and choreographed by Peter Schaufuss – a true story based on the book by Billy Hayes about a convicted drug-smuggler in a Turkish prison. A world away from Swan Lake, and perhaps, exactly what was needed to draw this absorbing rebel dancer back to the ballet world.

See Polunin star in Dior Homme’s Can I Make The Music Fly?

  • Todd Cole and William Gilchrist Tank #1
  • Todd Cole and William Gilchrist Tank #2
  • Todd Cole and William Gilchrist Tank #3
  • Todd Cole and William Gilchrist Tank #4
  • Todd Cole and William Gilchrist Tank #5
  • Todd Cole and William Gilchrist Tank #6
  • Todd Cole and William Gilchrist Tank #7
  • Dior SS1 Campaign