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American Dancer Soars at Mariinsky

Keenan Kampa, the first American to join the legendary Russian company, has just wrapped up the summer season.

Published: August 28, 2013 (Issue # 1775)



  • After dancing in Boston for two years, Kampa received the unexpected offer to grace the stage of the Mariinsky Theater.
    Photo: Natasha Razina / for SPT

  • The city has changed a lot, said Kampa, who first came to St. Petersburg in 2007.
    Photo: Mariinsky Theater / for SPT

I thought I was done with that variation. It makes me so nervous! Everyone dreads it.

Keenan Kampa, a 24-year-old Mariinsky Ballet dancer, was talking about the Queen of the Dryads role in Don Quixote that she recently danced at the theater. The Italian fouette series at the very end of the difficult variation makes for a tough finish, especially when dancing in a heavy tutu on the raked, or slanted, stage of the Mariinsky Theater.

You wouldnt know it, though, judging from the effortless performance Kampa pulled off and the crowds enthusiastic response when she flitted off stage.

Speaking to The St. Petersburg Times on a bench in Teatralnaya Ploshchad last week at the end of a hectic season, and with the Mariinskys classic green façade in full view, Keenan described her path to becoming the first American to join the Mariinsky Ballet one year ago.

As a talented pre-professional ballet dancer who was finishing a home-schooled education in the Washington, D.C. area in 2007, Kampa wasnt sure what her next move would be.

I wasnt sure where I was going to go the next year. I thought maybe college, or trying to pursue dancing.

Then, while participating in a Kennedy Center program for young ballet dancers in the area, Kampas path became clear.

Once a month, visiting companies gave a master class and I just got really lucky. There was someone from the Mariinsky there on tour, and they saw me in a class. At the end they just invited me. It was so unexpected.

A few months later, Kampa was on a plane bound for a country she had never set foot in to begin studying at the famous Vaganova Ballet Academy of the Mariinsky, formerly the Kirov.

It was a complete shock. Its a culture shock, everything was different, especially back in 2007, Kampa said of first arriving in St. Petersburg.

While Kampa may describe her discovery as luck, it was certainly much more that got her through the academys grueling program. Out of the 11 female Russian dancers who were part of her class, Kampa said, only four remained by the end of the two years, along with a few other foreign students, the others having been cut from the academys end-of-year exams.

Linguistic and cultural barriers added to the physical challenge, with Kampa thrown into the all-Russian environment with no time to get her bearings.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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