Opera ballet

The Paris Opera Ballet dancer is the fourth Korean to receive a prestigious distinction

Ballerina Park Sae-eun performs ‘Emerald’, part of George Balanchine’s ‘Jewels’ trilogy, for a gala after winning the prize on Tuesday at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. [YONHAP]

Korean ballet dancer Park Sae-eun was named best dancer at the Benois de la Danse awards, one of the world’s most prestigious ballet awards, on Tuesday in Moscow.

Park, a “first dancer” at the Paris Opera Ballet, is the fourth Korean to be named best dancer at the ceremony.

Kang Sue-jin, currently director of the National Ballet of Korea and former principal dancer of Stuttgart Ballet in Germany, was the first Korean to win the honor in 1999.

Ballerina Kim Joo-won won the honor in 2006, and Ballerina Kim Ki-min of the Mariinsky Ballet Company was named Best Male Dancer in 2016 – the first Korean male dancer to win.

She won the award for her performance as the lead in “Diamonds,” part of choreographer George Balanchine’s “Jewels” trilogy. Every year, Benois de la Danse reviews the performances of world famous dance groups and awards the prizes in Moscow.

The competition was established in 1991 to honor French choreographer Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810) by the International Dance Association in Russia, and began naming winners the following year. Renowned dancers such as Sylvie Guillem from Britain’s Royal Ballet and Julie Kent from American Ballet Theater are among the previous winners.

At the awards ceremony held at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Park said she was grateful and surprised as she had no expectations of winning. She also added that she enjoyed being there with many other outstanding colleagues.

“I do not know [what allowed me win the award,] but people often comment on the details of my dance moves,” Park told Yonhap News Agency after her win.

“Maybe I was a little more sensitive to expressing the music rather than just spinning and running and making beautiful lines [while dancing].”

She then added that she wanted to focus her efforts on playing more roles when she returned to Paris so that she could meet the expectations of the public as she now felt the need to take on greater responsibilities.

“The retirement age at the Paris Opera Ballet is 42, and I want to continue dancing until then,” the 29-year-old dancer said. “I have not decided if I will return to Korea or if I will stay in France after my retirement.”

It’s been about two years since she was named “first dancer” at the Paris Opera Ballet. She joined the ballet group in 2011.

Before joining the elite company, she was known for her outstanding performances in international dance competitions, including the Varna International Ballet Competition in Bulgaria in 2010 as well as the Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland in 2007.

She won the silver prize at the United States International Ballet Competition in 2006. There was no gold prize winner that year.

After her victory in Lausanne, Switzerland, she had the opportunity to work with ABT Studio Company for a year, the highest level of the American Ballet Theater training ladder.

She also worked at the Korea National Ballet for a while before heading to Paris. She is the first Korean ballerina to become an official member of the Paris Opera Ballet and the second Korean to do so after ballerina Kim Yong-geol.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [[email protected]]