Project Polunin: backstage at the blazing dancer’s new show in pictures

Photographer Sarah Lee was granted unique access to the preparations for Sergei Polunins new triple bill, an ambitious collaboration with Ilan Eshkeri and David LaChapelle featuring Natalia Osipova

The album Narcissus and Echo will be available on digital release on 24 March and CD and vinyl on 30 June

Project Polunin is a new initiative spearheaded by the maverick Ukrainian dancer Sergei Polunin in order to collaborate with contemporary artists, musicians and choreographers. At Sadlers Wells in London this week he is presenting a triple bill of modern and classical pieces comprising the UK premiere of Vladimir Vasilievs Icarus; Tea or Coffee, choreographed by Andrey Kaydanovskiy; and the world premiere of Narcissus and Echo, co-created by Polunin, composer Ilan Eshkeri and the photographer and artist David LaChapelle.

Sergei Polunin in rehearsals

Eshkeri wrote the music for Dancer, the new Polunin documentary film, while LaChapelle launched the dancer to wider appeal by directing his performance to Hoziers Take Me to Church. Narcissus and Echo is designed to reflect the idea that people are driven to create a carefully edited, ideal reality of themselves as a status symbol which leaves some people feeling inadequate. The pool is used as a metaphor for social media it is a world of beauty to Narcissus but it is an artificial one.


Sergei Polunin and his ballet company rehearsing Echo and Narcissus

Sarah Lee was invited to join Polunin and his company rehearsing Echo and Narcissus at Sadlers Wells. She photographed them over several days, working with Eshkeri and the choreographer Andrey Kaydanovskiy.

Polunin in rehearsals.

Working on the choreography.

The dancers work hard on the choreography.

  • Sergei working on the choreography.

Sergei Polunin and Natalia Osipova

Choreographer Valentino Zucchetti

  • Sergei Polunin and Natalia Osipova, left, rehearse; associate choreographer Valentino Zucchetti, right, oversees the dancers.


I am very lucky to work with Ilan and see him create. He cared and helped from the beginning and the music he composed touches you deeply – Sergei



  • Adriana Lizardi, trained in Puerto Rico, currently dancing with the English National Ballet; and the Royal Ballet Schools Shevelle Dynott.

In 20 years living in London, I have never taken or though I might want to take a crossing the Abbey Road picture. Sergei asked if I would mind taking it for him as they were all so excited to be there. The queue of tourists was agog when the dancers leaped from standing! – Sarah Lee

Abbey Road

Sergei Polunin and his ballet company recreate the iconic Beatles record cover

It is not usual for all the members of a dance company to be present at the recording of a shows score, but the groundbreaking nature of this production meant that all the company was invited to the Abbey Road studio.

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