Opera ballet

The first Asian star of the Paris Opera Ballet shares her journey










Korea time



Settings



The first Asian star of the Paris Opera Ballet shares her journey

Ballerina Park Sae-eun of the Paris Opera Ballet poses during a press conference held in Seoul on Monday.  Courtesy of Etoile Classic
Ballerina Park Sae-eun of the Paris Opera Ballet poses during a press conference held in Seoul on Monday. Courtesy of Etoile Classic


By Park Ji-won

June 10 this year was a historic day for Korean ballet, as the Paris Opera Ballet (POB) promoted ballerina Park Sae-eun to principal dancer, or “star dancer,” meaning literally “star dancer” in English, shortly after she performed the role of Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet”. She is the first Asian to be awarded the position in the 352-year-old French ballet company’s history.

Many of her colleagues knew she would be promoted. But Park said she remained focused on the stage role. Aurelie Dupont, the ballet company’s dance director, sent her flowers, which are normally only given to principal dancers, to celebrate her upcoming promotion.

“Actually, I was just happy that I was able to successfully play the role of Juliet and enjoyed the performance that day,” Park said at a press conference in Seoul on Monday. “Learning that I have become a star, I burst into tears because I thought the day had finally come… The meaning of a star is to be hopeless and tolerant. I still don’t know what to do as a than Asian first star, but I’m sure France has become more inclusive than before. I might not have been able to become a principal dancer if it was in the past. I think I had the chance to play at that time with my colleagues.

With the promotion, Park said she had now reached a peak in her career; but noted that she also felt like she was just getting started, adding that she would like to show more of what she has to offer to the public. Park shamelessly expressed her ambition saying she hopes to become the best of the best.

Ballerina Park Sae-eun of the Paris Opera Ballet speaks during a press conference in Seoul on Monday.  Yonhap
Ballerina Park Sae-eun of the Paris Opera Ballet speaks during a press conference in Seoul on Monday. Yonhap


His fame did not come overnight.

It has taken the 31-year-old ballerina a decade to rise to this position since joining the company in 2011. After leaving the National Ballet of Korea, she joined the French company, starting as a member of the “corps ballet”. in 2011. She served as “coryphee” or head of the corps de ballet in 2013, as “subject”, soloist in 2014, and as “première danseuse”, or premier danseuse, since 2016, which is the position just below the main dancer. She preferred to stay in the dance studio longer than her colleagues and learned French every morning.

Park learned French ballet from scratch. She said it was a difficult task to accomplish. In addition, she had to pass exams every year to be promoted.

“When I arrived in France, where people are very proud of their dance tradition, people had two opinions about my dancing. Some said I’m only good at expressing skills, not emotions. Some said I would become a very great dancer and surpass the French,” she said.

“I had to learn the French ballet style from the very beginning, which has different details than the Russian style. So I was continually told to fix my ballet in the French way. Also, it’s a very hierarchical, so I didn’t understand enough chances to show myself ― my art ― and perform until I passed promotional tests… It took many years to find the answer for my art. I concluded that no matter the style, I would try to dance to move people’s hearts ― a key in dancing.”

She wasn’t sure of her artistic direction until she was promoted to principal dancer in 2016. But the title gave her confidence and she never doubted herself afterwards.

“I never doubted myself after getting the first dancer title. When I started to express myself fully, many would have loved it. I still don’t know why I was able to get the title, but I think that self-confidence gave me the power to become a Star.”

As the company’s highest dancer, she no longer needed to pass promotion tests until her retirement at the age of 42. She also has a personal assistant and a private room. She is set to join the Ballet Parade on September 25, where some 250 dancers, including principal dancers wearing crowns, will open the company’s season.

Park said, “I’m still excited about my promotion, but it doesn’t seem real that I’m one of the stars. But I think that will settle down after the show. I can’t wait to be part of the show. ”