Korean ballerina shines in Singapore dance productions
Enpointe, the choreographer calls out, and the roomful of ballerinas suddenly snap to attention.
Then as the music plays in the background, a feisty woman playing the character Kitri from the famous ballet Don Quixote pirouettes around the rehearsal studio, dazzling everyone with her precise moves.
"One and two and three and four," the professional dancer mutters along with the beat. Wearing a playful smile, she glides around the lacquered floor on the tips of her toes.
But once the music stops, the daughter of a Spanish innkeeper transforms back to the Korean mother of six-year-old twin daughters.
Away from the stage, she speaks to The New Paper on Sunday as Madam Rosa Park - a senior artist with the Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT).
The 34-year-old used to make a living dancing with the Korean National Ballet Company. She moved here with her husband seven years ago.
These days, she often plays lead roles in SDT's many productions, as one of its more experienced dancers.
But Madam Park is not content to rest on her laurels.
She is determined to help younger Singaporeans who are interested in ballet shine, too.
On rehearsal days, she is the one less experienced ballerinas look up to, especially during company classes, where everyone comes together to practise a scene.
"I do my best to help them along and guide them if I can. It's teamwork," says Madam Park.
"I'm passionate about ballet and I hope to impart it to younger Singaporeans."
It means she has to watch over her peers, offering advice and giving them a listening ear if they encounter problems.
They remind her of her ballet training while in Korea, she says.
"I started dancing when I was 13. I was in an arts school and I didn't really think I was fit to be a professional dancer then," says Madam Park.
"In Korea, everything is very competitive, more 'kiasu' than in Singapore."
She points out that the environment there is a stark contrast to that of the local ballet scene.
Says Madam Park: "Here, young people are learning ballet for fun and enjoyment, instead of being pressured by the competition.
"It's much more relaxing and (moves) at a slower pace, which is a great environment."
She has also made many local friends through ballet, who were pivotal in helping her integrate into Singapore life.
She reveals that when she moved from Korea to Singapore in 2007, the transition was quite a tricky one. She decided to relocate here because her husband got a job in the finance sector.
She soon found out that she was pregnant with twin girls.
"I was worried. I didn't know much about Singapore and the idea of raising my first children here was quite scary.
"I didn't know if I could continue with ballet too," she said.
To familiarise herself with her new surroundings, she signed up for a pre-natal yoga class, where she got to know other Singaporean mothers.
Says Madam Park: "We still keep in touch today. They gave me lots of advice, especially about schooling and tuition."
She wryly recalls feeling shocked when she found out that her four-year-olds had to take an entrance test for a tuition centre. She laughs it off now as a cultural difference.
To regain her confidence in ballet, she also took part in adult beginner classes at SDT, where she met other Singaporean ballet dancers.
She was eventually hired by SDT.
Thanks to her new-found friends from ballet and yoga, she adapted to local life quickly.
"I didn't have a hard time (integrating). But I still miss having my chewing gum," she jokes.
She gained her permanent residency status three years ago, and now considers herself a Singaporean.
She is looking forward to SDT's next production - Sleeping Beauty - in March next year, which she will be performing in.
In the meantime, she plans to enjoy her days off with her kids before heading back to the rehearsal studio.
In Korea, everything is very competitive, more ‘kiasu’ than in Singapore. Here, young people are learning ballet for fun and enjoyment, instead of being pressured by the competition
- Madam Rosa Park