You left your family at 14 to pursue a career in Paris. How did that shape you into the committed artist you are now?
I was born and raised in Japan, and am from a Korean family, being surrounded by two different cultures as I was growing up. Leaving home at such a young age was hard, but it made me stronger. I wouldn't have been able to make it without the support of my family. I wanted to study in Paris, because of Élisabeth Platel – the ex-Danseuse Etoile of the Opéra national de Paris and the director of the Ballet School – she was my idol. I watched her videos a lot and absolutely adored her elegance and femininity. In Paris I simply wanted to immerse myself in the beauty of the city – it was a paradise with great cultural inputs readily available at hand.
What is a typical ‘work’ day for you? Likewise, what is a ‘day off’?
I spend most of my time at the Royal Opera House in Convent Garden. A typical day starts with a morning ballet class followed by rehearsals, which could run until about 6pm. The evening performance then starts at 7.30pm. When I have a break during the day, I strengthen and condition my body through Pilates and Gyrotonic sessions.
On my day off, I stay away from Covent Garden. It is important to switch my mind off from time to time, I think. I love sleeping in on Sundays, but going to markets, art galleries and nice restaurants is also wonderful. There is always something new to discover in London – it has everything!
Which one role has meant the most to you?
The role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker was one of my first big roles and the current season will be my 5th. When I am on stage, I want my performance to be like the most glittery icing sugar on top of a very delicate cake. I feel blessed to have so many great roles to choose from, so it would be difficult to pick any particular one, but if I had to choose, the Girl in Pick in Dances at a Gathering by Jerome Robbins was the most meaningful. It was a very special ballet for me, not just because I got to dance with Carlos Acosta – it was my first time on stage. I just felt so pure, it was magical.
Yuhio Choe is a First Soloist with The Royal Ballet. Visit roh.org.uk