Graduate of St. Petersburg Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet (class of Professor L. Safronova, 1981). On graduation, joined the cast of Kirov-Mariinsky Ballet Theater, where the renowned masters of St. Petersburg ballet stage, I. Kolpakova and O. Moiseyeva, assisted her further improvement.
At Mariinsky she danced the solo and principal roles in The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, Don Quixote, Pushkin, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Paquita, Swan Lake, Corsair, Cindirella, Chopeniana, La Vivandiere and many others. As the principal soloist, she toured USA, Canada, Australia, UK, France etc. with the Mariinsky company.
In 1989 she was one of the first to perform in a Georges Balanchine’s ballet in Russia: she was the principal dancer for the opening nights of Scotch Symphony.
In 1990 she accepted Peter Schaufuss’s offer to join English National Ballet, adding to her list of achievements the lead roles in H. Lander’s Etudes, V. Burmeister’s Swan Lake, B. Stevenson’s Romeo and Juliet, R. Hind’s Nutcracker and Coppelia, etc.
In 1991 Pankova received the Best Dancer Award from the British Ballet Critics Association.
In 1993, Pankova joined Bayerisches Statsballett as the principal, where she added the classical samples of the European ballet of the 20th century to her repertoire. Her most spectacular new achievements were the lead roles in J. Neumeier’s Nutcracker and The Lady of the Camellias, J. Cranko’s Onegin and Romeo and Juliet, U. Scholz’s Mozart, K. MacMillan’s Manon, H. van Manen’s Black Cake, as well as G. Balanchine’s Symphony in C and Tarantella, P. Martins’s Friandises, P. Bart’s La Bayadere, R. Barre’s Swan Lake and others.
Over the years, her stage partners were K. Zaklinsky, M. Daukayev, S. Berezhnoy, K. Melnikov, P. Schaufuss, F. Ruzimaton, C. Acosta, J. M. Carreno, M. Vaziev, N. Hübbe, R. Bolle and many others.
In the recent years Pankova has been combining her performing career with that of a stage director and choreographer. Her most noteworthy works as the director are Corsair in M. Jalil Theater, Kazan (2005), Swan Lake at Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro (2007; proclaimed Best Ballet Show of the Year in Brazil), Sleeping Beauty at Croatian National Theater in Split (2010), Raymonde at Theatre Vanemuine (Tartu, Estonia, 2012) etc.