Ballerino Jeon Min-chul / Captured from Jeon’s Instagram

Korean ballet talents are gaining recognition among global ballet enthusiasts as they join prestigious international ballet companies or are promoted to perform major roles, according to media reports and the dancers on Monday.

Ballerino Jeon Min-chul, 20, and ballerina Lee Ye-eun, 19, have secured positions with Russia’s Mariinsky Ballet and France’s Opera 커뮤니티 National de Paris, respectively. Additionally, Jun Joon-hyuk, 26, who has been performing as a soloist with the U.K.’s Royal Ballet, has been confirmed for promotion to first soloist.

Among them, Jeon gained attention in 2017 when he was featured on a local TV program dedicated to discovering prodigies.

At that time, Jeon was an elementary school student who, like Billy Elliot, expressed his love for dance despite his father’s opposition.

Since then, he attended Sunhwa Arts Middle School and Sunhwa Arts High School. Currently he is studying at the Korea National University of Arts’ School of Dance.

In 2023, Jeon became one of the winners in the pas de deux category of the classical dance competition at the Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest student ballet scholarship audition.

Jeon will join the Russian ballet company as a soloist in February next year, becoming the second Korean member following ballerino Kim Ki-min, who has been performing as a principal since 2015.

The Mariinsky Ballet ranks its members from lowest to highest as coryphees (members of a ballet company who dance usually as part of a small group), character soloists, second soloists, first soloists, and principals.

Founded in the 1740s, the Russian ballet company is considered one of the most prominent ballet companies in the world, alongside the Royal Ballet, Opera National de Paris, Bolshoi Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre.

The company is especially known to be a difficult organization to get into, with only two Asian dancers, including Kim and a Japanese ballerina. Jeon reportedly secured an audition with the ballet company thanks to Kim’s active recommendation.