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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

Wednesday, Sept. 17


AmChams Investment and Legal Committee Meeting convenes this morning in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center at 9 a.m.


Learn more about the science of teaching English at todays EFL Seminar hosted by the British Book Center. Revolving around the topic of learning styles, the workshop will help attendees better understand the different effective learning methods that can be implemented to learn English more effectively.



Thursday, Sept. 18


Get your nerd on at Boomfest, St. Petersburgs answer to the United States popular ComicCon. Starting today, this international festival of comics will take over venues throughout the city center and includes exhibitions of comics and illustrations, film screenings, competitions and the chance to meet the genres authors, artists and experts.



Friday, Sept. 19


SPIBAs newest addition to their Cultural Discoveries events is Handmade in Germany, an exhibition featuring unique handmade objects of a significantly higher quality than mass-produced items. The work of over 100 German manufacturers will be displayed during the event, which opens today in the Lutheran Church of Saint Peter and Paul on Nevsky Prospekt and runs through Sept. 28.



Saturday, Sept. 20


Starting on Sept. 18 and ending tomorrow is the Extreme Fantasy Wakeboarding Festival in Sunpark by Sredny Suzdalskoye lake in the Ozerki region of the city.


Those after something more laid back can instead head to Jazz and Wine night at TerraVino with legendary jazz guitarist Ildar Kazahanov. 12/14 Admiralteyskaya Emb.



Sunday, Sept. 21


Learn more about African culture and get some exercise during todays Djembe and Vuvuzela, a bike ride starting in Palace Square that includes several stops where riders can listen to the music of Africa or watch short films about the continent. The riders plan to set off at 4 p.m. and all you need to join is a set of wheels.



Monday, Sept. 22


Do you love puppetry? If so, then be sure to go to BTK-Fest, a five-day festival that starts on Sept. 19 celebrating the art. Contemporaries from France, Belgium, the U.K. and other countries will join Russian artists to put on theatrical performances involving a variety of themes, materials and eras. Workshops and meetings are also scheduled for a chance to discuss the artistic medium in further depth.



Tuesday, Sept. 23


Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of todays round table discussion on Interaction with Trade Unions being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.


Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.



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