Park Sae-eun has been handed the keys to the ivory tower that is the Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris, one of the world's finest ballet companies, thus adding to her formidable resume that already includes the national ballets of the U.S. and Korea.
Park, who earned the moniker "the queen of competitions" after winning the Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland in 2007 and the International Ballet Competition Varna in Bulgaria in 2010, said she was overwhelmed by the news.
"They contacted me and asked me to sign the contract. I'm so excited that I can barely sleep," she said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "This has been my dream since I was a child."
The official ballet of the Paris Opera is notorious for overlooking Asian ballerinas, meaning that Kim not only ranks as the first Korean female dancer to join the prestigious establishment, but is also expected to help smash stereotypes about ballerinas from the continent.
Kim Yong-gul, who now works as a professor at the Korea National University of Arts, became the first Asian ballerino to join the Paris opera in 2000.
The ballet company is considered so exclusive that only five percent of its 180 dancers come from outside France. Once accepted, dancers focus only on ballet and collaborate with the world’s best choreographers on a wide range of repertoires.
"I love taking on difficult challenges," said Park.