"I had been waiting for this moment for so long that it felt like years.
I worked on two square metres of lino in my flat to stay in shape.
It was very difficult."
After 10 years of persistent effort,… South Korean ballerina Park Sae-eun has finally become a star in a world-class French ballet troupe.
Paris Opera Ballet announced Park as an etoile dancer to a standing ovation after she performed in "Romeo and Juliet" as the lead at the Opera Bastille on Thursday local time.
Founded in 1669, the Paris Opera Ballet is one of the most renowned ballet companies in the world along with the Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theatre.
Park is the first Asian dancer to be promoted to an etoile dancer - the highest level dancer - in 3-hundred-52 years of the ballet company's history.
Being an etoile is an honor reserved for just a handful of dancers in the company,… including Ludmila Pagliero, who became the first Latin American etoile in 2012.
It's quite the rise for Park, who joined the Paris Opera Ballet in 2011 as a one-year temporary contract ballerina.
Park moved step-by-step up the company's five ranks, reaching the second-highest status, "first dancer" in 2016, before finally becoming an "etoile" this year, as one vacancy was available after an Italian ballerina retired.
Kim Yong-geol, who was the first Asian male dancer to be a part of the Paris Opera Ballet in 2000 and retired in 2009, says Park's achievement is something else.
"Being an etoile, it is not a promotion. It is an appointment. There is a rule that only five-percent of the troupe can be foreigners, and rest of them are French. Even those five-percent are almost all Europeans. Park becoming an "etoile", it is unbelievable. To be a "etoile", one needs to be not only great but also needs to understand the country's culture, language and have good relationships."
With her elegant and fluid movement, Park has awed Paris, and now is getting ready to perform her first show as the "etoile" on "Romeo and Juliet" on June 16th.
Kim Bo-kyoung, Arirang News.