Ballerina brings home Korea’s first IBC gold

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Ballerina brings home Korea’s first IBC gold

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Chae Ji-young, gold medalist at the 2010 U.S.A. International Ballet Competition, performs “Flames of Paris.” Provided by Chae

Clad in a black leotard and white tights with her hair tied up, Chae Ji-young looks like just another ballerina at Korea National University of Arts. But as a gold medalist at the 2010 U.S.A. International Ballet Competition (IBC), held last month in Jackson, Mississippi, this baby-faced 18-year-old has proven herself a force to be reckoned with.

Chae is the first Korean to win gold at the U.S.A. IBC, one of the three most prestigious dance events in the world, along with sister competitions in Varna, Bulgaria and Moscow, Russia.

“I was honored to even compete at this competition,” said Chae, who was grouped in the junior female category.

Due to the luck of the draw, Chae was the first to perform in the medals round. “I think I was lucky to go first. I was more relaxed,” she said.

Kim Ki-min, Chae’s partner of three years, joined her in the competition.

“We argue a lot over our differences in analyzing our movements in practice. But without those arguments, we could not have improved our technique this much,” the ballerina said. Kim won the silver medal in the junior male category.

Chae has come a long way since first sliding into her ballet slippers at age 4.

“I was a very weak child, so my parents wanted me to exercise regularly. They picked ballet just because it was a girly hobby,” Chae said.

She decided to dance professionally after watching an outdoor ballet performance at the National Theater of Korea when she was 7, and began competing at age 9.

So far, Chae has danced in seven international competitions, and at the first couple, she came home empty-handed. Even so, she says, competing was a valuable experience.

“You cannot understand how many talented ballerinas are out there by just practicing in the studio,” said Chae. “I get to see the same ballerinas over and over again at international competitions. As they perform, I can see how they have improved their skills since the last competition,” said Chae.

The dancer is still jet-lagged from the long flight home from the United States, but she is already back in school preparing for the next competition in Varna at the end of the month.


By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]



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