Director: Steven Cantor
By Mae Anthony
DANCER (2016) is no ordinary documentary, not by the perimeters of its contents. I’m sure nearly every Facebook user would be familiar with Sergei Polunin, who was the mind-blowing solo dancer of a video made viral in early 2015 set to Hozier’s captivating and celebrated track, “Take Me To Church”.
Polunin (age 27), at the height of his dancing career, was considered the best ballet dancer of our modern age. Growing up in the poor town of Kherson in Southern Ukraine, Polunin and his family went to great sacrifices to make him the success he became. But often these things come at a price. He wasn’t nicknamed “the bad boy of the ballet world” for nothing.
What makes this documentary so appealing and likeable is the way it shows the immense capabilities of people: determination, from not just Polunin himself but from his family too, was the key to his success. Although we must not discredit natural talent in these matters, but it definitely supports the concept of “things are what you make of them”. Interestingly, to exemplify this, the documentary lays bare the darker side of this unique kind of sacrifice, that of high-stakes performance fields.
What made this piece of film so special, aside from the mesmerising footage of his dancing in various productions, was the footage his mother took of him as a child. This contributed to the bulk of the film, both in the amount of content, but also in the quality of content. It was an excellent touch as it added to the sensitive areas of the film about his family, which was an extensive theme covered throughout.
My only reservation is with the music. Although cleverly crafted, and thematically fitting, watching him dance to the music he was dancing to at the time of recording may have been more effective than having music added in post-production. This decision worked to emphasise the impending drama, but I think took away from the sentiment of showing the authenticity of his raw skill. Perhaps had it been used outside of these clips only, I wouldn’t have lost the substance but still would have felt the dramatic contours so cleverly intended by director Steven Cantor. Nevertheless, it does not tarnish the credibility of this striking piece of cinema.
An exclusive season of DANCER starts from December 8 at Luna Leederville.