Sergei Polunin, the talented Ukrainian-born dancer, has been dubbed the best male dancer of his generation, but almost walked away from dance for good in a journey that’s captured in the documentary Dancer.

Sergei Polunin Video Exclusive: ‘Dancer,’ ‘Take Me To Church’

Polunin has been dancing since he was four years old. When he was eight, he started training with the Kyiv State Choreographic Institute. By age 13, he had joined the British Royal Ballet School. Just a teenager, Polunin was lauded for his skills, becoming the youngest principal in the British Royal Ballet. In the height of his successes, Polunin became notorious as ballet’s bad boy, and ultimately self-destructed.

“‘Oh you think I’m bad, I’m going to prove to you that I’m the baddest, I’m the worst,'” Polunin told uInterview, giving insight into his mentality at the time. “I had many years of trouble. Nobody would really hire me or listen to me.”

Frustrated by achieving so much, and yet feeling such little reward emotional or otherwise for the success, Polunin decided to resign from the British Royal Ballet.

“I wished to be the best dancer in the world,” Polunin explained. “When I finally got there, it’s nothing really what I thought it would be. It was like, ‘Ok what’s next?’ It didn’t excite me in a way,” said Polunin, who noted that dancers don’t get the same fame and notoriety as athletes and actors.

Having walked away from dancing, Polunin was uncertain what the future would hold for him, until film producer Gabrielle Tana approached him with an idea – which would eventually become Dancer.

“She came up with this idea for me to do a movie,” Polunin said of Tana. “She flew to Russia to talk to me about it. Our conversation led to the documentary.” It took a few years for Polunin to trust Tana, who he now calls his “guardian angel,” about the idea. “I didn’t want to be filmed.”

Eventually it was decided that “the heart of the documentary would be a dance piece. David [LaChapelle, a music video director] came up with the concept, found the song before it was famous.”

The song Polunin was referring to is Irish singer-songwriter Hozier‘s “Take Me To Church,” which he danced to as sunlight poured through the windows of a gutted chapel in the video that went viral last year, amassing more that 16 million views.

“I put my favorite steps in, a lot of steps from [Mikhail] Baryshnikov,” said Polunin who had help putting the dance together from a choreographer friend of his. “I just felt the song, felt the moment.”

“After we shot [the video], I knew I couldn’t give [dancing] up,” Polunin added. “I’m sure I have to come back and dance, and I went back and danced for three months for free.”

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