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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

Thursday, July 24


Liliana Modiliani, a well-known Russian stylist, will talk about choosing clothes that fit during her lecture at 7 p.m. at the Pryamoy Efir art club, 13 Viborgskoe Shosse.



Friday, July 25


Discuss Russias economic and political prospects for 2014 during a Business Breakfast organized by SPIBA at 9.30 a.m. in the Bank Saint-Petersburg office at 64


Malookhtinsky Prospekt.


Start your weekend with adorable miniature pigs at the Squealing Pig festival at 7 p.m. this evening in the Karl & Friedrich restaurant, 15 Iozhnaya doroga, on Krestovsky Island.



Saturday, July 26


Hundreds of brand-new and retro cars, drag and drift shows, test drives and karting are planned for the Avtobum-2014 festival, which will take place in front of the RIO shopping center at 2 Fuchika Ulitsa.


Participants in todays SaniDay Summer competition will impress visitors with their hand-made, unusual and hilarious boats, which will race at the Igora Resort near the 54th kilometer on Priozerskoe Shosse.


Metro Family Day will include both serious lectures for adults and master-classes for children, making the event interesting for the whole family. To participate, come to Kirov Park on Yelagin Island.


Photography will be the focus of todays Photosubbota, which features lectures by famous photographers, meetings with photo schools and studio representatives, and participation in a photography competition. The event starts at noon at Petrokongress, 5 Lodeynopolskaya Ulitsa.


If you like cycling, make sure to visit the Za Velogorod Festival with its retro bike exhibition, market and live music. The second round of the Leningrad Criterium race will also take place during the event at Petrovsky Arsenal in Sestroretsk.



Sunday, July 27


Navy Day will be celebrated with a weapon and military transportation exhibition, self-defense master classes and concerts. The event starts at 1 p.m. in the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburg.



Monday, July 28


Dont miss a chance to see the latest achievements in robotics during the RoboDom interactive show, exhibiting more than 150 robots. The show will be at BUM center, 22/2 Gzhatskaya Ulitsa, until Aug. 3. The entrance ticket costs 350 rubles ($10).



Tuesday, July 29


A video of a Queen concert from 1986 will be shown today at 8 p.m. in Yaschik, 50/13 Ligovsky Prospekt.



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