The Paris Opera Ballet has withdrawn its invitation for Sergei Polunin to perform in Swan Lake because he posted “homophobic”, "sexist" and “fattist” comments on social media.
Ukrainian-born Polunin, 29, nicknamed the “bad boy" of his art after walking out of London’s Royal Ballet in 2012, had been due to dance in Paris in February.
Aurélie Dupont, the artistic director of the Paris Opera Ballet, acknowledged that Polunin, reputed to be the greatest dancer of his generation, was a “talented artist”, but she said his “public pronouncements” did not respect the company’s values.
It has cancelled a plan to cast him as the lead in a production of Swan Lake in which Prince Siegried is supposed to be played as a repressed homosexual.
Polunin, who was compared to Rudolf Nureyev early in his career, blasted gay dancers in an Instagram post last month. He urged male ballet dancers to “man up”.
“Man (sic) should be a man and woman should be a woman, that’s the reason you’ve got balls,” wrote the dancer.
Referring to gay male dancers, he said: “Females now trying to take on the man role because you don’t f— them and because you are an embarrassment.”
Polunin, who has in the past struggled with alcohol and drug abuse, according to Dance magazine, said gay men “need a good slap… Man (sic) are wolves, are lions. Man are the leaders of the family.”
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He also lashed out at overweight people last week on Instagram, saying: “Let’s slap fat people when you see them. It will help them and encourage them to lose some fat. No respect for laziness!” He later deleted the post.
Polunin took Russian nationality in November and sports a tattoo of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, on his chest. He has said he was praying for Mr Putin to lead the world “because it would be ultimate win over evil”.
He is best known outside ballet for starring in a video for the Irish singer Hozier’s 2015 hit, ‘Take me to Church’, directed by the artist David LaChapelle.
Ironically, the song, viewed more than 26 million times on YouTube, condemns the Roman Catholic church for its stance against homosexuality.
A leading dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet, Adrien Couvez, had earlier described Polunin an “embarrassment”.
“You are a disgrace,” Couvez posted. “It’s frankly impossible for the Paris Opera to invite someone like this in 2019. Our company promotes values of respect and tolerance! This man has nothing to do with us.”
Polunin’s posts on his Instagram account, followed by more than 170,000 people, also provoked calls online to boycott the Paris Opera Ballet.
Reacting to his remarks about overweight people, the star dancer Ludmila Pagliero posted: “Better not put on a gram otherwise Monsieur Polunin won’t be happy.”
The “enfant terrible”, who started dancing at 3 and moved to London aged only 13, enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom. He became the Royal Ballet’s youngest dancer, but shocked fans in 2012, when he was just 23, by announcing that he was ending his ballet career.
“I wanted to progress to other things,” he said afterwards. “I wanted to move into cinema.”
He appeared in a 2016 documentary film, Dancer.
He has long had a reputation for eccentric and sometimes inappropriate behaviour, but his latest misogynistic, homophobic tirades and violent language have made him a pariah.
He recently appeared in a video for the luxury fitness brand Equinox, but it seems that ballet’s bad boy has finally become too bad for ballet.