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Tattooed Dancer Sergei Polunin Disappears in U.K. Again

Sergei Polunin
Sergei Polunin, the Royal Ballet principal who quit the company last year. He was to return to London to star in Peter Schaufuss's "Midnight Express," as a drug smuggler who gets arrested and thrown in a Turkish jail. He again disappeared, days before the premiere. Source: Borkowski PR via Bloomberg

April 4 (Bloomberg) -- Sergei Polunin has disappeared once again.

The Ukrainian dancer, who suddenly quit the London’s top-flight Royal Ballet last year, has decamped without giving any notice from “Midnight Express,” a dance setting produced by the Peter Schaufuss Ballet in London.

Adapted from the film about a young American trapped in a Turkish prison for hashish smuggling, the ballet will open next week with a new Billy Hayes.

“Due to unforeseen circumstances, Sergei Polunin will no longer be performing in ’Midnight Express’ at the London Coliseum,” said an e-mailed release from the company.

The 23-year-old ballet star, who was last sighted late on April 2, failed to show up for rehearsals the next day, and has been unreachable since.

Polunin seemed no flight risk when he spoke to Bloomberg News during rehearsals on March 27 in a ballroom-turned-ballet-studio in southwest London. He wore a track suit, moon boots and revealed an elaborate tattoo on the back of one hand, one of 15 covering his body.

Sucking an imaginary joint with an exaggerated air in rehearsal, Polunin gave no special reason for his disappearance last year, beyond an urge to party and acquire lots of tattoos. On Twitter and in interviews he mentioned heroin and boasted of performing on cocaine.

New Mentor

He said he’d be willing to return to the Royal Ballet and said he had a new mentor: Igor Zelensky, the director of the Stanislavsky Ballet.

Zelensky, who hovered over him during the London rehearsal, was meant to dance the role of a jailer in “Midnight.”

He isn’t reachable either, according to the company.

Perhaps they are both dancing up a storm on Russian television? Having triumphed in a TV competition, Polunin said he was getting his very own “Evening with Sergei Polunin” in the theater.

(Farah Nayeri writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are her own. This interview is adapted from a longer conversation.)

Muse highlights include Mark Beech on London theater, Jason Harper on cars, Rich Jaroslovsky on tech and Lance Esplund on U.S. art shows.

To contact the reporter on this story: Farah Nayeri in London at farahn@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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