Annelie Liliemark is celebrating five years as a soloist with Canada’s Ballet Jörgen! Since her first season in 2012 Annelie has been whirling though roles that have included the Short Stepsister in Cinderella, Bluebird in Sleeping Beauty, and Annelie’s staple role of the Cygnet in Swan Lake which she has performed over 50 times across Canada and the US! To commemorate this milestone, we sat down with Annelie to ask her about what brought her to CBJ, her brightest memories and greatest challenges, and how she has grown throughout her time with the company.
Do you mind introducing yourself to us and giving us a little background on your dance history?
My name is Annelie Liliemark and I come from Stockholm Sweden. I started dancing when I was four and a half years old. When I was nine I started at the Royal Swedish Ballet School; that’s where things got serious. I graduated when I was 18 and started dancing for the Royal Swedish Ballet and then I came to Ballet Jörgen the next year.
When I came to Canada I expected to stay for only one or two years but now it’s been five! At the beginning I was a bit scared, I mean I was only 19 at the time. But I didn’t know what Canada was like then. When I came here I fell in love with the company and with Canada.
What made you want to come to Canada? Did you know Bengt?
I heard about Bengt, but had never met him. I emailed him but he had already had auditions so I was very late. I still decided to fly to Canada for a week and met Bengt. I got an email a month later that I had a job. He told me to come to Junior Company to get experience with the company, and after that I was hired for the next season.
When you first came here you began as a soloist performing bigger roles. Was that challenging?
It was very nerve wracking because when I was at the Royal Swedish Ballet I was doing all corp parts. My first season with CBJ someone was needed to fill in for Saniya [Abilmajineva] in the Pas de Trois in Swan Lake. It is really challenging, and they didn’t know who would do the part since everyone already had their roles. It was Coach Svea [Eklof] who said “let Annelie do it.” She rehearsed it with me a lot, but it was very scary. I’m very happy that I got the chance to do it. If you’re always in your comfort zone then you won’t go anywhere. It’s good to be scared sometimes.
What has stood out to you the most in these past 5 years? What has been your greatest challenge and/or success?
The greatest challenge is being so far away from home. Things that were familiar to me there are so different here. I even started hating Christmas because all my Christmas traditions are back in Sweden. As a personal journey, not just as a dancer, the last five years have made me a completely different person and I am happy with that. My biggest challenge has turned into a success. I think it helps that I really like the company and people here are very supportive. In our company, we always help each other. If someone gets injured there will be 10 people with either bandages or muscle cream. It’s a very supportive environment, which I think is amazing.
Have you enjoyed travelling all over Canada? Do you have any favourite stops?
Yes, although touring is not as glamourous as people would like to think! Nelson, BC is one of my favorite places, and I also like Newfoundland since I made some friends there. I try to meet people wherever we go, and because of Facebook it’s easy to keep in touch. If I’m going to a town I’ll message people from last year to see if they are still there and we’ll meet up.
Do you have a favorite role?
The Step Sister from Cinderella. It was really, really fun not having to be the perfect princess. You have to use good technique to make the role good, but I think I wiped out at least five times that year and no one in the audience noticed! Like big wipe-outs and I just stood up and pretended it was part of my role. I was the stupid stepsister not the evil one, so it worked perfectly. From the roles that I haven’t danced, I want to dance Juliet from Romeo & Juliet. She starts off as innocent and sweet then turns dramatic. I don’t know if I would be good at it, but it would be a great learning experience.
Aside from dancing, you also teach in the Summer Dance Program. What is that like for you as a dancer? How did you start teaching?
It started when we were on tour with one repertoire class, and then I started teaching more and more. Repertoire class is teaching someone else’s steps, so once I was comfortable with that I started teaching ballet classes and creating exercises. I think it’s been going well!
I like teaching, especially when I can see a change and feel that someone has understood what I mean. I like giving people knowledge, but I don’t like forcing the knowledge on them. If they don’t do it I don’t want to be like “you have to do it this way” because I hate being that person. I find it hard putting myself over someone else. Sometimes it’s frustrating because I don’t know what to say, but other times it’s great because I can see the students listening and improving.
Are you choreographing right now? Would you consider doing choreography later in our career?
Not at the moment. I’ve been thinking about it, but I would feel even more self-conscious than I do right now. I feel self-conscious when I teach, and I’m not even making things up.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
Annelie: I’m in denial about my future because I hate choosing. When I came to Canada I told myself I would only stay one year, but now it’s so hard to leave.
Make sure you see Annelie on tour in Anastasia this season! Find out when CBJ will be coming to a theatre near you here!
Take a look back on Annelie’s CBJ journey here and leave her a message congratulating her on her anniversary!
Our anniversary marks 30 years of supporting young artists like Annelie. Please consider joining us in our 30-year birthday celebration with a gift of $30!