A short film by filmmaker, dancer and ballet teacher Kahlil Calder.
Where did you dance professionally (i.e. location & company)?
I danced in Canada, first as an apprentice with the National Ballet of Canada, and after with the Alberta Ballet. From there I went to work with Cirque du Soleil and kind of moved into doing musical theatre after that. I never stopped training classically however and eventually I moved to Europe. In Europe, I dance with a ballet company named the International Dans Theatre in Amsterdam.
Where did you study?
I did my classical education at the National Ballet School in Toronto, but I did most of my modern and contemporary training in Europe. I did film school at Sault College, which is in Northern Ontario when I stopped dancing professionally.
You've said that Bend came from a personal place of reflection on the ways you've felt like an outsider.
I have endured culture shock quite a few times in my life, particularly when I first moved to Berlin, Germany. And it took some time to find my tribe of people. However what inspired Bend was my life living in small town Canada after leaving Amsterdam. I was used to a certain lifestyle, and culture and way of being and it was tough to re-integrate into my own country. I often felt isolated and didn’t see anyone I really related too. It was that sense of bewilderment and searching, even waiting for things to transform that inspired the film as I had to adapt to my new living situation. It was a great experience looking back on it.
What drew you to filmmaking?
I have always loved film. I have so many favourite films and I love how a film can leave you feeling. But it also gives me the possibility to create any vision I want for my audience, I can really put them anywhere and in any situation with the camera.
What's your relationship to dance like these days?
I’m very involved still as I teach, coach, and choreograph my own work. Currently I am starting work with some professional dancers to produce some new work for film and production. Dance will always be a part of me I think. Even though my body has a harder time [moving] in a classical manner, I find solace in how I move now in a much more contemporary way.
What injuries have you sustained dancing?
Oh Lord! Injuries. I have had my share, in fact it was injury that stopped me [from]dancing. I have had what’s called an ostrigonum (extra bone) in my heel shaved off; I have had a meniscal repair; I have a really tight right iliopsoas muscle; I had calcification of the bone of my right big toe shaved down. I feel like I’m missing something, lol!
Did/do you have a signature dance move?
Not really. I’m very hyper mobile and I was always kind of known for that. I really liked doing big jumps when I danced.
What did you learn about yourself & your body through ballet?
I know that I’m incredibly tenacious that’s for certain. As well as driven and focused when I need to be and calm when I need to be, too. I’ve learnt patience and to trust the process as the art form requires great diligence. There are no real immediate results in ballet and it takes great discipline, focus and drive, but I think the desire to do it must be the strongest factor in assuming the work. I continue to find out new things about myself and my body, my spirit and mind through the art of dance.
What did you learn about yourself/your body when you stopped dancing professionally?
I learned that there is a time for everything. There is a time to let go and move on and to accept new things as well as great opportunity to approach life from a different perspective.
As a teacher you have the task of observing students & their body's limits. How do work with them to ensure their safety & the longevity of their careers? How do you teach them to take care of their bodies? What lessons from your career do you focus on for their sakes?
Well for me the foundation is of key importance. Just getting students to learn how to stand and keep lifted is necessary. I see it easily in dancers who never had this education - how hard it is to assume [this stance] later in their training. However, equally important to me is instilling in my students fantasy and creativity. I try to make it fun for my students, so they don’t really see the difficulty as they are enjoying the process. Conditioning, strengthening, and flexibility are key components in my class as well as talking about anatomy and what’s moving under the skin and even on the skin. I loved dancing and that’s what I want my students to experience for themselves. I want them to recognize that what they do not everyone gets to do and that it is a privilege, and a gift to be cherished while they are able.
This conversation has been edited & condensed for clarity.