sun 22/09/2019

A starlet no longer - now Sergei is to be Covent Garden's new star | reviews, news & interviews

A starlet no longer - now Sergei is to be Covent Garden's new star

A starlet no longer - now Sergei is to be Covent Garden's new star

A 20-year-old is promoted to principal rank after only two years in the Royal Ballet

A new male star will be leading the Royal Ballet next season - a prodigious in-house talent of just 20. Sergei Polunin, Ukrainian-born and Royal Ballet School-trained, has been elevated to top rank in the Royal Ballet’s end-of-year promotions after just two years in the company. His rapid ascent to the top has not been unexpected as he has been constantly marked out with warm reviews for his combination of aristocratic style and darkly dramatic aura.

The other new male principal next season is to be Nehemiah Kish, 27, an American-born principal with both the Royal Danish and National Canadian ballets. Making way for them in the top rank are the retiring Viacheslav Samodurov, now turning with acclaim to choreography, and the long-serving ballerina Miyako Yoshida.

A talent lost to London is Xander Parish, a young man who has taken the unusual step of joining the Mariinsky Ballet in St Petersburg.

Other company promotions are Johannes Stepanek to First Soloist (the rank below Principal), and the striking blonde Melissa Hamilton to Soloist - Hamilton is an Irish girl who was taken out of the Elmhurst Ballet School to study privately with the wife of former Royal Ballet and Bolshoi star Irek Mukhamedov. She has made a particular impact in the modern work of Wayne McGregor, the Royal Ballet’s resident choreographer. Claire Calvert, Akane Takada, Fernando Montaño and Erico Montes are promoted to First Artists from the corps de ballet.

Leavers include the longstanding and stylish male First Soloist Yohei Sasaki, Gemma Sykes, Cindy Jourdain, Ernst Meisner and Richard Ramsey. Joiners include the Leipzig Ballet’s Itziar Mendizabal, replacing Sasaki at First Soloist level, and graduates from the Royal Ballet School include the impressive young Yasmine Naghdi, Sander Blommaert and James Butcher, plus former RBS pupil Valentino Zucchetti, and two from elsewhere, Beatriz Stix-Brunell from the School of American Ballet - who though now only 17 scored a big hit on Christopher Wheeldon's Morphoses tour to Britain last autumn - and Camille Bracher from Johannesburg.

The overall effect of the ups and downs is to underline the internationalism of today's Royal Ballet.

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature


A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway


Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.



This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman


Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.


Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.