Movie review of “Dancer”: Documentary captures career leaps of prodigy Sergei Polunin, who became a principal dancer in the Royal Ballet at age 19. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
Sergei Polunin dances as if there’s no difference between air and floor; every leap is performed with passionate abandon, as if it just might be his last. “Dancer,” Steven Cantor’s documentary about Polunin’s brief-as-lightning career, does us a great service: It captures those moments, where youth and artistry and astonishing talent merge into reckless, glorious dance, emblazoned on a vast screen. I gasped, more than once. In one scene, as Polunin performs in rehearsal, the camera wanders into the wings where a group of young female dancers watch, literally agape. Your mouth might do the same.
Still in his mid-20s, the soulful-eyed Polunin and his bruised feet have already lived a lifetime in dance. A child prodigy growing up in working-class Ukraine, he entered London’s Royal Ballet School at 13 — “it felt like Harry Potter world,” he said, of the culture shock — and became a principal dancer in the Royal Ballet at the unheard-of age of 19. After two years, during which the tabloids christened him “the boy wonder of ballet,” Polunin abruptly left the company in 2012. He now makes guest appearances with companies around the world.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Dancer,’ a documentary directed by Steven Cantor. 85 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Sundance Cinemas (21+).
It’s an unfinished story, which leaves “Dancer” slightly unsatisfying, as if we’re abandoning a book mid-chapter. But what a pleasure to wallow in the talent of a ballet rock star — and to watch a troubled young man find peace in a split-second of perfection. “You jump,” he says in voice-over, as we watch him suspended midair, “and then, this is who you are.”