Dancer Profile: Zoe Michalik

“She’s got it in the satchel”

Where did it all begin for you?
I started dancing when I was four in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia at Coastal Dance. Dance was more of a hobby for me at that time, and it wasn’t until I reached the double digits when I started to get more serious about it. I started rhythmic gymnastics with a club called Illusions when I was eight to help gain some flexibility. When I was in fourth grade the National Ballet School was holding auditions in Halifax (right across the bridge from Dartmouth) for their summer school. I decided to do the audition and was accepted for the program that summer – what an adventure! It was my first time away from home and my mom only came to drop me off. Being on my own for a month was a big deal for me. I did end up having a really good time despite a bit of homesickness and fear of ghosts at night. The next year I re-auditioned,was accepted, and went for the summer after fifth grade. At that point my family had moved to Barrie, Ontario for a work opportunity, so when I got into the National Ballet School for my grade six year, we were all very excited. They were looking for a change and they wanted to be near me, it was a double plus. I started in grade six and stayed until grade twelve; I basically grew up at the school.

You became a Ballet BC apprentice right out of school. Can you tell us about that experience?
During my grade twelve year I was not sure about where I wanted to dance after graduation. I had planned to do some auditions for schools to further my dance training but did not feel quite ready to be in a company. Then Emily (Molnar) came to visit the school while she was in Toronto hosting auditions for Ballet BC. I was rehearsing a ballet by Robert Binet when she came to watch. Afterwards I was told by one of my teachers that Emily had noticed me in rehearsal and I was given her email address so that I could introduce myself and express my interest in Ballet BC. Emily replied to let me know there was an open apprentice position and that she wanted to see more of my dancing. I sent her a few videos, and a few days later, she offered me an apprenticeship!

What did you do once you heard you had the apprenticeship?
I had seen the company online and was blown away by everything. It was so nice to see so many individuals and artists just being who they are. Once I spoke with Emily everything lined up in my head and I knew this is what I want to do. This is it! This is the thing!

Everything happens for a reason. I felt like, how did this happen to me? I never would have expected my life to go the way it did. There’s a lot ahead and you don’t always know what is going to happen next. You just have to wait and see. I fell in love with the company and Emily’s vision. It’s everything anybody wants. You don’t come across something this special very often and when you do you can’t forget it or let it go. Everyone is beautiful, and the way everyone works together in the studio is so inspiring. It’s a real community and there is a lot of trust.

What are your first memories of this new adventure?
I remember very clearly arriving in Vancouver, getting out of the taxi, walking across the street, looking to the right (yes the right), and stopping right there with my jaw dropped – I had spotted the mountains. I had never experienced that in my life. I’m from Nova Scotia, so we have the ocean, but the mountains, no. So THAT was incredible. I think the city is beautiful and I love nature, so it’s a dream. We are very lucky, I mean Stanley Park in the middle of the city, hello – what is that? I love it.

It was definitely challenging being that far away from my family and friends. Growing up with one group of people and literally spending every living moment with them, and then all of a sudden only seeing them once or twice a year is really a shock. There is nothing that can prepare you for that until you do it. Then once it happens it’s like, okay this is it, and it’s really, really hard. It’s just something everyone has to do at some point in their lives.

That being said, I feel so lucky to have come to Ballet BC because I genuinely feel from the bottom of my heart that if I had been with any other group of people it would have been so much harder. The comapny honestly such a loving and supportive group of people – it means the world to me.

Have you ever smashed your phone by accident?
No, but I have flushed mine down the toilet.

What do you do with your spare time?
I love walking. Often if I don’t know what to do I’ll go for a walk. I also enjoy trying to meet cats while I’m walking. If I see a cat I try to interact with it, usually successfully.

In school I did photography and I loved it. The problem now is that I don’t have a camera. It’s something I’ve always wanted. If I’m bored I’ll just go out and take photos. I can spend hours editing photos. It’s so calming for me.

Would you describe yourself as being very organized?
I’m actually quite a messy person. It’s hard for me to be organized. I had the messiest room in residence at NBS. In other departments too. Like in school I would run out of paper so I would have to take my notes on paper towels. Which is really hard, believe it or not. Sometimes you have to do that.

Do you feel organized in other areas of your life?
I’m particular, but I’m not organized.

Who/what makes you laugh?
Situations where you aren’t supposed to be laughing.

What are you obsessed with?
I had an obsession with satchels. It couldn’t be an ordinary satchel, it had to be a mini satchel. There was one satchel specifically that my grandparents brought me from Panama as a gift. It was the satchel. Everyone knew me by my satchel. I had the satchel and I was obsessed with it. Then I developed a thing for satchels. There is actually a picture of me as a baby and I’m wearing a satchel.

Tell us about your pets.
I have a dog named Jesse from PEI and we are very close. He’s a border collie sheltie mixed with something that we don’t know. His fur is like fire it is so red and he is such a beautiful dog. I also have three cats, one of them who I was close with passed away last year. Her name was Jamz and I called her my godmother. She was a stray who kept coming to our doorstep for food while we were living in Nova Scotia and she eventually just made it inside. What’s funny is that even though she had settled in our home she would still go to all of the neighbours houses and pretend to be a stray to get a few extra servings of food. She was really special and very human. Every morning my brothers and I would put sugar in our cereal. We liked the taste of the sugary milk but could never really drink all of the milk on our own so we would give it to Jamz. She would drink all of it, every last drop. She loved the sugar milk, and pasta sauce on pasta days. We have another cat named Ron Paul. My brothers named him. Then there is Higgie.

What is your most used expression (verbal)?
It switches around a lot. Right now I’m really enjoying “you got it in the bag.”

What do you aspire to?
To just be able to be. To be accepting of what is. Whatever it is, to be okay with that. I want that to be enough.

Video by Peter Smida.

~C+A Consulting Artists