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Pointe Magazine

EunWon Lee's Risk & Reward: From Stardom in South Korea To A New Life At The Washington Ballet.

If you are a dance lover in South Korea, EunWon Lee is a household name. The delicate ballerina and former principal at the Korean National Ballet danced every major classical role to critical acclaim, including Odette/Odile, Giselle, Kitri, Nikiya and Gamzatti. Then, at the peak of her career, Lee left it all behind.

In 2016, she moved to Washington, DC, to join The Washington Ballet. The company of 26 is unranked, making Lee simply a dancer—not a soloist, not a principal and not a star, like she was back home.

"I try to challenge myself, and always I had the urge to widen my experience and continue to improve," she says one blustery winter day after company class, still glowing from the exertion of honing, stretching and strengthening. "When I had a chance to work with Julie Kent, I didn't hesitate."
 

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The Washington Post

In “Romeo and Juliet,” the Washington Ballet unleashes a star.

You can have it all — youth, wealth, beauty, even a perfectly nice fiance — and still feel trapped. This is the truth of “Romeo and Juliet.” The cry for freedom is a far more interesting theme than love. 

Yet frothy romantic intensity is what you find in most ballet versions of the Shakespeare tale: layers of goop, thick and thin at the same time.

The Washington Ballet’s production spares us this. This is good and not so good. On the plus side is the thrilling sense of freedom, embodied with breathtaking poetry by EunWon Lee as Juliet. Other ballerinas will take on this role at the Kennedy Center Opera House, where the company performs through Sunday. Lee returns to it Saturday afternoon. I cannot imagine the ballet succeeding without her.


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The Washington Post

She was South Korea’s superstar ballerina. Now, she’s given it up to try to make it in America.

Back home, Lee was the National Ballet’s youngest principal ballerina and a dance celebrity. Her performances sold out the Seoul opera house in minutes. She starred in “Giselle,” “La Bayadere” and other classics, and was coached by visiting ballet royalty from around the world. With her lithe form and delicate, childlike features, she modeled for Swarovski jewelry and tossed out ceremonial pitches at ballgames. 

But it wasn’t enough.


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The Washington Post

Even Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ felt fresh: Washington Ballet season opener was that good.

The “Corsaire” excerpt, as danced by the explosive Brooklyn Mack and a cheerfully confident EunWon Lee, takes a straightforward approach to showmanship, as in the athletic brand of technique that the Soviets exported to dazzle the West. Its polar opposite is 1908’s “Les Sylphides,” which captures the graceful, rhythmic lines of art nouveau, and the art movement’s luxury and delight. 


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The Washington Post

Washington Ballet hires Korean National Ballet principal.

In the latest sign of high artistic aims for her company, Washington Ballet Artistic Director Julie Kent has hired Eun Won Lee, a top-rank ballerina with Korean National Ballet, the Washington Ballet announced today. Lee, a willowy dancer with fine technical and musical strengths, has won honors at many international competitions, including the Korea Ballet Association’s Prima Ballerina Award. Her repertoire includes leading roles in “Giselle,” “Swan Lake,” “Don Quixote” and “La Bayadere,” among other staples of the ballet canon. 


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The Korea Times

Lee Eun-won's new adventure on pointed toes.

She joined the KNB as an apprentice in 2010, taking the lead role of Marie in "The Nutcracker" in the same year. After being officially accepted to the KNB in 2011, she was rapidly promoted to a principal within two years and danced a variety of roles including Giselle from "Giselle," Yegina in "Spartacus" and Nikiya and Gamzatti in "La Bayadere."

The KNB principal dancer recently staged her farewell performance in Korea for now as feisty Katherina in John Cranko's "The Taming of the Shrew."
 

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