Park Sae-eun is the first Asian ballerina to reach the highest rank at the Paris Opera Ballet in its 352-year history.
Danseuse étoile: On June 10, South Korean ballerina Park Sae-eun made history not only for herself but also for the Paris Opera Ballet when she became the first Asian woman to achieve the “danseuse étoile,” title — or “star dancer” — the highest rank of the prestigious ballet.
"I believe that art — not just dance — transcends nationality and race," Park told Agence France-Presse. "I became the first Asian ballerina to be an etoile and it's very much become a talking point, but I think of it as something that's very natural."
According to The Straits Times, Park Sae-eun is one of only two foreign-born etoiles at the renowned company who withstood years of difficult training, language barriers, injury and competitive exams.
The 31-year-old Seoul native trained in Russia’s “Vaganova” ballet method at South Korea’s top art institutions. She moved to Paris at the age of 21 and spoke little French when she arrived.
Her performance as the lead in “Romeo And Juliet” in June prompted a standing ovation and earned her the etoile rank at the Opera Bastille.
"A lot of emotions were overlapping — I was so happy and so grateful, and thought there really is such a day," Park shared. "I had been waiting for so long...and there were times that were a bit tough, and I was reminded of all of these all at the same time."
Park is also dubbed as the “queen of concours” after being celebrated as a teen prodigy in South Korea. Today, she is highly praised for her emotional depth and lyricism. Paris-based dance critic Laura Cappelle lauds her for her "inner serenity, a gift for slowing down time on stage".
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