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Sae Eun Park (Dancer)

Park Sae-eun is one of a handful of Asian dancers at the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet.

Park joined the ballet company in 2011 and made headlines back in October when she landed the position of soloistafter two years. The Paris Opera Ballet is one of the very few companies where promotions are carried out as a competition. It's very public, in fact, people can purchase tickets to watch the coveted competition.

"It's when everyone in the ballet company becomes very competitive. It may seem a bit harsh to compete so intensively with your own colleagues, but if you think about it, it means the company is willing to offer an equal opportunity to everyone. It's fair and the dancer who is the best to ‘win' the spot. If the judges can't decide, they can even skip a position for that year," Park said.

When it comes to colleagues it seemed there was a rather steep learning curve. Especially in terms of fellow ballerinas.

"You can really feel the intensity and power of French women. When I first started dancing here, they were all nice, but you could feel that tension. There would be misunderstandings and like any other Asian, I would worry and get really stressed about others' behavior and remarks, but I learned to be tough. It was mostly a cultural thing: I've learned to understand the different cultural traits and this has helped me a lot."

"Don Quixote" Grand PDD Sae Eun Park & Kimin Kim
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Sae Eun Park and Kimin Kim in Don Quixote Grand PDD

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