Park Sae-eun shows her French flair while performing with Paris Opera Ballet

Park Sae-eun, right, a Korean ballerina who is a danseuse étoile, or principal dancer, of the Paris Opera Ballet, talks to the local press on Monday at Sejong University in Gwangjin District, eastern Seoul. Left is her partner Paul Marque, who

Park Sae-eun, a Korean ballerina who is a danseuse étoile, or principal dancer, of the Paris Opera Ballet will be performing in Korea with the company on Thursday and Friday at the Lotte Concert Hall in southern Seoul. It’s her first performance since her laudable promotion last year, when she became the first Asian to achieve the rank at one of the world’s most important ballet companies.

The Paris Opera Ballet will present the “2022 Etoile Gala,” which is a series of highlight scenes from the company’s repertoire. Park will be performing in three of the 10 pieces.

“It’s been about 10 years since I joined the Paris Opera Ballet and I really wanted to showcase fabulous French dances that I fell in love with to Korean audiences,” said Park, during a press conference held on Monday at Sejong University in Gwangjin District, eastern Seoul, where the dancers were rehearsing for the upcoming show.

The performance will start off with a divertissement pas de deux from “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” choreographed by George Balanchine with music by Felix Mendelssohn. Two French dancers Héloïse Bourdon and Guillaume Diop will take to the stage. They will be followed by dancers Roxane Stojanov and Florent Melac’s performance of “After the Rain,” choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon with music by Arvo Pärt.

Three different couples will perform “In the Night,” a piece by choreographer Jerome Robbins using Frédéric Chopin’s music. Park will perform in the piece with her long-time partner Paul Marque.
Park says she was “mesmerized by the piece” when she first saw it being performed.

“I thought to myself that it’s a piece that should be performed by French dancers. It is so different and it is so French that audiences will get a sense of what French ballet looks like through this piece,” she said. “I wanted to perfectly express the French style of dance — that elegance and detail — in this piece. Though I’m not inherently French, I think I managed to do that.”

Park and Margue rehearse for the upcoming performance on Monday, which will be held at the Lotte Concert Hall on Thursday and Friday. [LOTTE CONCERT HALL]

Park chose the final piece that will be performed as the highlight of the show — the balcony pas de deux from “Romeo and Juliet” that she’ll dance with Marque.

“It’s choreographed by Rudolf Noureev with music by Serguei Prokofiev,” Park said. “It’s a very, very difficult piece and my job is to make it look not difficult at all. In fact, I think that’s one of the features of French ballet. The dances look so easy and elegant in the eyes of the audience but actually, they are so difficult for the dancers to master. French ballet is a dance that is elegant and requires precision and is so delicate and sophisticated. Its strength is that it contains dramatic elements as well.”

“I’m so happy to be performing in Korea with Sae-eun,” said Marque. “She’s a colleague and a friend whom I can talk to and share the same vision about French ballet. Somehow, we have had a lot of first performances as partners, which led to natural conversations about our philosophies on dance. We are very similar in that sense. We are always together, talking and rehearsing. I can sense there’s tension coming from her husband when we do romantic works,” he said, chuckling. “I am just lucky to have found a partner like Sae-eun.”

It may sound strange to stage a ballet performance at the Lotte Concert Hall that’s designed for classical music concerts and while it may not be suitable to stage a full-length classical ballet performance, it’s already proven its capability as a performing arts hall for smaller scale ballet performances. In 2019, it hosted Russian ballerina Svetlana Zakharova and violinist Vadim Repin for the “Two As One” concert.

The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Tickets range from 60,000 won ($45.70) to 250,000 won.