Dancing in Narcisse, part of Men in Motion at Sadler's Wells Photo: REX
Controversial Ukrainian dance star, Sergei Polunin, has quit the cast of a new ballet show, Midnight Express, due to open at the Coliseum in London next week.
A statement released today attributes his departure to “unforeseen circumstances”. Johan Christensen, the understudy, will take his part in the Peter Schaufuss ballet based on the book and movie by Billy Hayes about a drug smuggler's incarceration in Istanbul.
The circumstances of Polunin's disapparance are predictably mysterious. Schaufuss has said he was “hugely disappointed” and deeply worried about his hedonistic young star who shocked the dance world in January 2012 by unexpectedly quitting the Royal Ballet a week before he was due to appear as the lead in a production of The Dream.
At the time, dance fans feared that an exceptional talent was about to vanish forever amid rumours of missed classes, drug cocktails, late night parties, and the proliferation of tattoos with which Polunin had decorated his body. Disillusionment with the discipline of ballet itself seemed the root cause as he later told the BBC that he was no fan of rehearsing. Only when performing, he said, did he enjoy dancing.
The new ballet is a take on the story of Billy Hayes' confinement in a Turkish prison. The memorable 1978 film version was directed by Alan Parker, with a screenplay by Oliver Stone, and starred Brad Davis and John Hurt.
Scafhauss today told the BBC, "I've worked for these performances for the last eight months - 24/7 - so to see it having to change in the last minute is devastating. Now we are under tremendous pressure. But sometimes it is exciting to be against the odds."
Lustralboy wonders whether "against the odds" was exactly what Polunin had encountered in rehearsals.
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