Other social media commenters were critical of Ms. Dupont’s decision. “A renouncement that puts in question her authority and confirms political correctness,” wrote one, while another wrote on Facebook that Mr. Polunin merely expressed “things any rapper band has been bawling with impunity for decades.”
Mr. Polunin’s public unraveling is dismaying to the many who consider him a huge talent whose best dance years have been largely lost to the ballet world. Many of his followers have expressed concern for his mental health; others have defended his right to hold whatever political views he pleases. Mr. Polunin did not respond to a request for comment.
His story is well known to ballet fans, and was the subject of a 2016 documentary, “Dancer.” The film shows his passage from an impoverished childhood in Kherson, Ukraine, to his arrival at the Royal Ballet School, speaking no English, at 13, and on to his meteoric success at the Royal Ballet, where he became the company’s youngest-ever principal dancer at 19.
Two years later, he abruptly resigned, declaring he was bored with ballet, its punishing physical regimen and meager financial rewards. He tweeted about taking drugs, drinking and going to parties, and about the tattoo parlor he co-owned. The British media wrote endlessly about him, calling him “the bad boy of ballet,” and bemoaning the loss of his talent.
Mr. Polunin has since pursued a film career, appearing in small roles in “Murder on the Orient Express,” “Red Sparrow” and “The White Crow.” But his dance career has faltered. After leaving the Royal Ballet, he danced with the Stanislavsky Company in Moscow and he has been a “permanent guest artist” with the Bayerisches Staatsballett in Munich. (Igor Zelensky, the director of the Munich Ballet, was unavailable for comment.)
But Mr. Polunin’s own venture, Project Polunin, and a joint program with his former girlfriend, the ballerina Natalia Osipova, have met with a tepid critical reception. He is currently scheduled to appear at the London Palladium at the end of May in what is described as “a new mixed program.”