Bolshoi ballerina happy to dance on home stage

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Bolshoi ballerina happy to dance on home stage

Among the pale Russian faces of the Bolshoi Ballet Company sits one proud Asian ballerina. Bae Joo-yoon, who dances in the corps de ballet in “Spartacus,” on Oct. 8 and 9, is thankful to be performing to a home audience with such a famous company.
“My role in the performance is not a major one,” Ms. Bae said as photographers leaned in during a press conference yesterday. “But I am very thankful and happy to be here.”
As the only Asian on the company, the 27 year-old Korean recalled her fourteen years in Russia studying at the Bolshoi Academy. Ms. Bae left home because Korea lacked a professional ballet school at the time.
It took her three years to become a formal member of the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet company. She was sixteen years old, and it seemed that her dreams were finally coming true. But she did not realize it was only the beginning of a long road to recognition among Russian ballerinas.
The language problem was one thing she had to overcome, Ms. Bae said. Then she had to practice more hours than others to overcome the drawback of being an Asian dancer of comparatively shorter height than her colleagues.
“I don’t think I am that short, but I guess I am among taller people,” she said smiling sheepishly.
Ms. Bae said she was about 165 centimeters tall.
Although she has yet to take a lead role in Bolshoi performances, she has danced solos several times in previous stagings of “Giselle” and “Swan Lake.”
A question she often faces from domestic critics was why she stays with the Bolshoi, when she could play bigger roles if she settled for a Korean ballet company.
“I expected it to be hard and this is something I have to do in the long run,” she said. Entering the Bolshoi is something that many other Asian ballerinas are afraid to attempt, she said.
“I think I can give younger Korean ballerinas the hope that they could also compete with international dancers,” she said.
“I get letters from younger girls saying they were inspired by me. That encourages me as well.”

by Lee Min-a
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