Ballet star Sergei Polunin opens up about drugs, new doc, and the dark side of dance

In June 2010 and at the age of just 20, Sergei Polunin became the youngest principal dancer in history of The Royal Ballet. Less than two years later, the Ukrainian-born prodigy dubbed the greatest dancer of his generation shocked the dance world when he quit the company amid reports of hard partying and drug-use. Dubbed the "bad boy of ballet", Polunin continued to perform in Russia while moving into contemporary dance and also the world of acting, while his stunning turn in a David LaChapelle-direct dance video for Hozier's 'Take Me to Church' won him legions of new fans. The 27-year-old's tumultuous life story is at the centre of a new documentary directed by Steven Cantor, Dancer, and it's a story that Sergei candidly discusses in Attitude's new April issue, available to download and in shops now.
Recalling the profound psychological consequences of his past drug abuse, which sometimes included taking cocaine or amphetamines before going on stage during the height of his success.
"At first drugs made me feel good but then literally your body starts to fail," he says. "And your brain isn't functioning and you're a few seconds behind. Then I couldn't speak anymore; I was quiet all the time, nothing would come out."
Admitting he didn't want to relive painful memories from the past by watching the documentary himself, he tells us: "I didn't want to watch it and I got tricked into it. I had to get really drunk. But it was intensely painful to watch." "I was watching with David LaChapelle and i was hanging on to his leg. You live through those moments again. Your brain gets tricked into it and you experience the same emotions." Five years since his sensational exit from The Royal Ballet, Sergei's memories of the industry remain coloured by loneliness and discontent. "I wasn't happy with how people were in the ballet world," he explains. "I thought everybody was for themselves. "If you look at football everybody plays as a team and then ballet everybody is by themselves. "There is nobody behind you really. You can read Sergei's full interview in Attitude's April issue, out now. To buy in print click here, or subscribe at To buy a digital copy, visit
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