Paris ballet's foreign legion reaches for the stars - GulfToday

Paris ballet's foreign legion reaches for the stars

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Australian ballet dancer of the Paris Opera ballet Bianca Scudamore poses during a photo session.

Watching YouTube as a child in Australia, the idea of one day joining the ranks of the hallowed Paris Opera Ballet seemed nothing short of an impossible dream.

It didn't stop Bianca Scudamore daydreaming about it, though.

And now, having just turned 19, she's the rising star at the world renowned company, where a cosmopolitan generation of young dancers are making names for themselves.

Unlike the Royal Ballet in London or the New York City-based American Ballet Theatre, the Paris Opera Ballet has very few foreign dancers -- of its 154, only 25 are not from France.

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Chinese ballet dancer Chun Wing Lam poses during a photo session.

Bianca Scudamore from Australia

Described as the "baby ballerina" because of her tender age, today she is just two steps away from the lofty "etoile" title.

Scudamore started dancing when she was three at home in Brisbane, and threw herself into the English-style classical ballet of The Royal Academy of Dance, aged 13.

But her goal was Paris and she would watch YouTube videos of the Paris Opera Ballet.

At 14, she auditioned for the Paris company's ballet school, despite her teacher's reservations.

"My teacher told me, 'foreigners don't really get to this school, you don't really have any chance,' so I said I am going to take my chance," she said.

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New Zealand's ballet dancer and first soloist of the Paris Opera ballet Hannah O'Neil.

South Korea's Sae Eun Park

For Sae Eun Park, a 29-year-old South Korean, arriving in Paris was something of a rude awakening.

"I was a soloist with the Korean National Ballet and I danced all the principal roles.

"When I arrived at the Opera I was on a limited contract and in the wings the whole time," she said.

"But I learned a lot."

The daughter of an employee at the Korean conglomerate Samsung and a pianist, her love affair with ballet started when her father took her to see the "Nutcracker".

She was trained by Russian dancers -- there not being an Asian style of ballet as such -- in her home city of Seoul.

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Korean ballet dancer Sae-Eun Park, a 'premiere danseuse' at the Paris Opera ballet.

Chun-Wing Lam from China

In 2015, Chun-Wing Lam caused a sensation in his native Hong Kong when he became the first Chinese to join the Paris ballet.

"Dance is valued more in France. In Hong Kong, they found my story astonishing.

"I was a boy who did classical dance," the 22-year-old said.

Hannah O'Neill, New Zealand

The moment she'll never forget was seeing a video of the ballet "Cinderella" starring Rudolf Nureyev, the legendary Russian dancer who led the Paris Opera ballet troupe, and star Paris dancers Sylvie Guillem and Charles Jude.

"From that moment on, for me, Paris Opera was ballet," said Hannah O'Neill, now a first dancer, one step away from "etoile".

Instead, she joined the Australian Ballet School in Melbourne and won the Prix de Lausanne and Youth America Grand Prix.

Agence France-Presse