From Korean Outsider in Japan to Prima Ballerina in London

      April 24, 2015 11:07

      Choe Yu-hui is a first soloist with the Royal Ballet in London and the only Korean in the company. She started dancing at the age of five and moved to Paris to train at the Paris Opera Ballet at the age of 14.

      In 2002, when she was 17, Choe won first prize and the contemporary dance prize in the Prix de Lausanne.

      She came to the Royal Ballet that year as a Prix de Lausanne apprentice, and officially joined the company in 2003. In 2006 she was promoted to first artist and to first soloist in 2008. She has steadily built her career with major roles such as Princess Aurora in "Sleeping Beauty" and Gamzatti in "La Bayadère."

      She danced the lead role of Lise in the comical ballet " La Fille Mal Gardée" on Thursday.

      Choe Yu-hui performs "La Bayadère" at the Royal Opera House in London in April 2013. /Corbis

      Born in Fukuoka, Japan, to a Korean family, Choe grew up in a pro-North Korean environment. Only 12 years ago did she change her nationality from North to South Korea.

      "It's something that I find difficult to talk about," she says. "I never had proper registration papers. I was born and raised in Japan but used a Korean name, and I wasn't able to travel anywhere with a North Korean passport."

      The Royal Ballet is famous for its hectic schedule. Christmas and New Year's Day only exist as busy days in the calendar. "My life is colorless and odorless. The only time it shines is when I'm on stage," says Choe, whose daily schedule is fully filled with performance and practice.

      All she does for recreation is sleeping because "that's the only thing my body wants."

      "Sleeping well, eating well, and not getting injured are the most important things. I came to practice at 9:30 a.m. and went home at 11 p.m. yesterday," she says. "In my lunch break, I often go up to the rooftop of the Opera House and look over London. Do I find my life boring? No, I don't want to waste my energy on other things. All dancers around the world want to come and perform here. I breathe, jump, and dance in this kind of place, so how can I find it boring?"

      She turned 30 this year and she said she likes getting older. "The transient nature of ballet performance makes playing the same role a different experience each time. Time will help me improve."

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