Elizabeth Kalashnikova moved to Canada with her family from St. Petersburg, Russia, when she was seven. After studying ballet and jazz as a child, at the age of fifteen she began training at Toronto’s School of Atelier Ballet, the dance-training program operating under the umbrella of Opera Atelier, North America’s premiere period opera and ballet company. It was there that she was introduced to and fell in love with baroque dance. Since 2013, she has been dancing with Opera Atelier, including performing with them at the Palace of Versailles, in France, that year. She will be returning to that birthplace of baroque this fall when they present Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Armide.
What do you like most about dancing for Opera Atelier?
The most enjoyable part of dancing with Opera Atelier is being surrounded by passionate artists. Every single person participating in the production tries their best to produce a show that the audience will love. This environment enhances my own passion for my role in the show. Opera Atelier allows me to push myself to give the best performance I can every single time I appear on stage with these other hard-working artists.
What is the role of dance in baroque performance?
Baroque is a very dynamic style of music and performance. When you add dance into the mixture, in my opinion, it acts to draw the audience into the music. Combining beautiful music and dancing can only lead to a more lively performance overall.
Why does baroque dance appeal to you?
I love dancing baroque because of its visual appeal — baroque dance flows, it’s lively and it takes me back in time. When I dance baroque, I am taken back to the 1600s; I feel like I’m wearing some stunning corset and enjoying an evening of live music and culture. What I greatly enjoy about baroque dance is, despite looking very effortless, the style of dance itself is challenging, as every movement needs to be very specific. Not only does it require coordination and memory but, as dancers, we must make the complex steps seem graceful. This is the challenge that I enjoy most about baroque.
Tell us about Opera Atelier’s upcoming trip to Versailles.
Having been on Opera Atelier’s tour to Versailles before, I can certainly tell you I’m no less excited for this tour. The experience was simply amazing; it changed my view of performing. So many people piled into the theatres that extra chairs needed to be placed in the aisles. After each performance, the audience gave such a powerful standing ovation my heart could have exploded. It not only made me appreciate the art of baroque, but it made me want to share this appreciation with the people of Toronto. It is in my opinion that Opera Atelier wants to do just that. They want to allow Torontonians to experience opera as not something only an entertainment of the past, but something that can be enjoyed today. In Europe, people are very excited to see a restaged opera. The anticipation of performing for that engaged audience again thrills me.
What are your current projects and interests?
I am always interested in improving myself as a dancer, both in terms of technique and of knowledge. I try to get involved in projects outside of my comfort zone and learn new things. Currently, however, I am focusing on dancing with Opera Atelier. Along with my passion for performing, I am planning to expand with my passion of teaching. My goal has been to expand the interests of Torontonians in dance. It seems to me that most people don’t realize how diverse dance can be and the benefits it can offer everyone. It is not only beautiful to watch, but it improves us as humans: it is a fun way to be healthy and acts as a social activity that almost everyone can enjoy.
Read more about Kalashnikova in the September/October issue.