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Dancer: A Glimpse into the Life of Ballet Prodigy Sergei Polunin

Dancer unveils the poignant story of ballet prodigy Sergei Polunin, exploring the toll of fame, identity struggle, and the importance of mental health.

Keywords: Sergei Polunin, ballet, dance, mental health, fame, identity, pressure, success, documentary


"Dancer", directed by Steven Cantor and released in 2016, is an intimate exploration into the life and career of Sergei Polunin, a ballet dancer of extraordinary talent. It spotlights the harsh realities of the dance world and the emotional toll it can take on individuals. The relevance of this documentary lies in its depiction of mental health struggles, a topic of increasing importance in today's society.


"Dancer" unveils the story of Sergei Polunin, a ballet prodigy who shot to fame at a young age. Yet, just as he was on the brink of becoming a legend, Polunin began to question his existence and commitment to dance.

More film analysis


"Dancer" adopts an observational approach, offering a raw and honest insight into Polunin's life. The depth and quality of the research are evident in the personal interviews and extensive footage of Polunin's performances. The exploration of the subject is profound, delving into the personal struggles behind the artist's success.

Historical and Factual Context:

Sergei Polunin, born in Ukraine, became the Royal Ballet's youngest ever principal dancer at the age of 19. Despite his success, Polunin struggled with the pressures of the dance world, leading to his unexpected resignation from the company in 2012.

Key themes in the film:

  • The toll of fame and success
  • The struggle for identity and purpose
  • The pressure of expectations and the importance of mental health

Film Comparisons:

Compared to other dance documentaries on iWonder, "Dancer" stands out for its focus on the psychological effects of the dance world, rather than solely on the physical demands and artistry of the profession.

Noteworthy Moments:

One significant moment in the documentary is Polunin’s performance in David LaChapelle's music video to Hozier's "Take Me to Church". This emotionally charged performance went viral and introduced Polunin to a broader audience.


"Dancer" was well-received by critics and audiences alike, with a score of 7.8 on IMDB. Critics praised the documentary for its candid portrayal of Polunin's struggles and its exploration of the pressures of professional dance.


"Dancer" is a compelling documentary that offers a rare glimpse into the life of a ballet prodigy and the emotional cost of his success. It’s a must-watch for dance enthusiasts and anyone interested in mental health issues.

Watch Dancer - Streaming Online | iwonder (Free Trial)
Blessed with astonishing power and poise, Sergei Polunin took the dance world by storm and became the Royal ballet’s youngest ever principal. At the peak of his success, aged 25, he walked away, driven to the brink of self-destruction by stardom – his talent more a burden than a gift.

More film information

IMDB: 7.8 | Rotten Tomatoes: 85% | Metacritic: 72
Awards: 1 win & 3 nominations: Barcelona-Sant Jordi IFF, British Indepenent Film Awards, Dublin Critics Circle Awards, PGA Awards

Sergei Polunin - a ballet prodigy who became the youngest ever principal dancer at the Royal Ballet.
Steven Cantor - the director of the documentary, known for his intimate and revealing style of filmmaking.

London, UK - where Polunin became a principal dancer at the Royal Ballet.
Ukraine - where Polunin was born and began his dance training.

Key Questions Raised by the Film:

How can the pressures of success and fame affect mental health?

What are the psychological impacts of the professional dance world?

I wonder what the film would be in another art form:

"The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde - if it was a famous book, depicting the struggle with identity and the dark side of beauty and success.

"Dancing with Myself" by Billy Idol - if it was a famous song, reflecting Polunin's loneliness and struggle.

"The Scream" by Edvard Munch - if it was a famous piece of art, symbolising the internal anguish Polunin faced.

Heath Ledger - if it was a famous celebrity, another young talent who struggled with the pressures of fame.

Blue - if it was a colour, representing both the beauty and melancholy of Polunin's story.

Classical - if it was a music style, reflecting the beauty, discipline, and intensity of ballet.