Elena Pankova is from Kamchatka in Russia, and received her diploma in Saint Petersburg where she also made her debut in Don Quixote with the Kirov Ballet in the Teatro Mariinskij. Subsequently she interpreted the principal roles in Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, La Sylphide, Les Sylphides and Le Corsaire. She was very successful in New York, Paris and London and in 1990 she left the Teatro Kirov together with her husband Kirill Melnikov to perform in Cincinnati, Florence and with the English National Ballet. In those years she added the Nutcracker and Swan Lake to her already extensive repertoire. In 1993 she joined the Bayerisches Staatsballett in Munich where she interpreted Kitri, Mercedes and Dulcinea in Don Quixote, Julia in Romeo and Juliette by Cranko, Manon and the principal role in Dame aux Camélias by Neumeiers and Tatjana in Onegin as well as the principal roles in Giselle, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Fearful Symmetries, Zakouski by Peter Martins, Brief Fling by Twyla Tharp, Tarantella by Balanchine, Black Cake by van Manen and La Bayadère by Nikija. Since the 2000/2001 season she has been a guest dancer at the Bayerisches Staatsballett.
She has recorded numerous videos with the Balletto Kirov such as Le Corsaire, La Vivandière, Les Sylphides as well as Black Cake with the Bayersiches Staatsballett.