June 18, 2012 12:51
Park Sae-eun has become the first Korean ballerina to become a member of the Paris Opera Ballet, one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world. She has been dancing there since last summer.
"After finishing an audition on Thursday, I was notified that I was the only person to be given a permanent place as I finished first out of 130 applicants," Park said on Saturday in a telephone interview with the Chosun Ilbo.
The Paris Opera Ballet is the oldest troupe in the world, having been established by Louis XIV in 1669. It is considered one of the world's top three ballet companies along with the American Ballet Theatre and the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House in London.
Park has penetrated the glass ceiling that exists for non-French ballerinas. The troupe is seen as a bastion of French culture and is highly selective, especially in admitting dancers from abroad. Just 5 percent of its 180 dancers come from outside France, mostly from other European countries.
Due to such fierce completion, it has been the all-but impossible dream of many dancers to become a permanent member of the troupe.
Park started ballet at the age of 10 and picked up a gold medal at the Dong-A Dance Competition when she was in high school. Since then, she has had an impressive run at international competitions and picked up the nickname, "the queen of competitions" along the way.
She is the first Korean to have won three of the most prestigious competitions in the world in Jackson (2006), Lausanne (2007) and Varna (2010), with Moscow being the only key title to have eluded her so far.
She worked at the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company in 2007 and joined the Korea National Ballet in 2009, where she became the youngest dancer in its history to land starring roles. Park intended to become a permanent member of the Dutch National Ballet, but instead took a gamble on going to Paris, where she set a new milestone in just a year.
Park's case is quite unprecedented, as most of the troupe's members are selected after six years of training at its own ballet school. They then spend another four to five years there on temporary contracts.
"I heard it's extremely difficult for a foreigner to pass the audition, so I didn't have high expectations," she said.
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