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Runaway ballet star Sergei Polunin vows London return

LONDON (Reuters) - Runaway Ukrainian dancer Sergei Polunin, more famous of late for his absences than his "arabesques", showed up in London on Tuesday vowing to return in July to dance in a production of "Coppelia" with Moscow's Stanislavsky Ballet.

The Royal Ballet prodigy, dubbed the bad boy of dance, vanished from a London performance of "Midnight Express" in April less than a year after leaving Britain's Royal Ballet in the lurch a week before he was due to dance for them.

Polunin, 23, blamed unexplained health reasons for his disappearances, but told reporters at a press conference in London that this time he would definitely be there to star in the production of "Coppelia" at London's Coliseum, where he had been due to dance in April.

"I am very sorry that, due to health issues at the time, I wasn't able to explain to everyone why I couldn't perform in April but I'm delighted to have another opportunity to dance at the Coliseum in July," he said.

"'Coppelia' is one of my favorite ballets and I will be there.'"

The tattooed Polunin, who at 21 was the youngest dancer to be made a principal with the Royal Ballet, was tagged as ballet's wild child after walking out of the company in January 2012 just a week before he was due to dance in "The Dream".

Within months, however, he had returned to the stage, performing with Moscow's Stanislavsky Ballet, as a guest dancer with the Royal Ballet in London and signing up to perform in the UK premiere of "Midnight Express".

Shortly before its opening, director and choreographer Peter Schaufuss said Polunin had failed to turn up for rehearsals and was not returning calls. He said he was worried about the young star whom he believed had put a party lifestyle behind him.

July's production is expected to see Polunin star in the first UK appearance of Roland Petit's 1975 version of "Coppelia", with music by the English National Ballet Orchestra.

The story follows the comic adventures of the red-blooded Franz and how he falls in love with a beautiful, life-like doll. The doll - Coppelia - is created by the eccentric yet mysterious toymaker Dr Coppelius.

Polunin will dance alongside Semyon Velichko, Kristina Shapran and Erika Mikirticheva. The production will be led by General Director Vladimir Urin and artistic director Igor Zelensky.

After Polunin quit the Royal Ballet last year, he told reporters that he found rehearsing "very boring" and wanted to give up ballet by the age of 26 as it was so grueling.

(Reporting by Paul Casciato; editing by Mike Collett-White)

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