Keenan Kampa Bio: In Her Own Words – Video Exclusive, News, Photos
Keenan Kampa is an American-born ballet dancer, actress and model from Washington D.C. She is the first American to be admitted into the prestigious Mariinsky Theatre (formerly the Kirov Ballet) in St. Petersburg, Russia. She is also the star of the recently released film High Strung.
Keenan Kampa: Early Life and Career Breakthrough
Keenan Kampa was born and raised just outside Washington D.C. She began taking classes with her sisters at the age of four, trying out gymnastics and other sports before settling on ballet. She did her early dance training at the Reston Conservatory Ballet under the supervision of Julia Cziller Redick. From an early age, Kampa carried an appreciation of the Russian ballet dancers of the Bolshoi and Mariinsky companies. At the age of 14, she began taking summer ballet programs in renowned institutions in the country such as the American Ballet Theatre’s JKO and the Boston Ballet, which even offered her a full-time opportunity to continue her studies, but she chose to remain at home. While continuing her classical training with Redick, Kampa attended the Gonzaga College High School, where she also took part in musical theatre productions.
When asked about her start in ballet dancing, Kampa told uInterview, “I started ballet when I was 4, and then when I was 17, I was asked to go study in Russia in the Vaganova Academy. So what was supposed to be just a year turned into 3 years, and I ended up graduating with Russian diploma. Then I got a contract with the Boston Ballet and worked there for a year. And after a year, the company in Russia, the Mariinsky Theatre, offered me a contract… So I danced with Mariinsky for about 2 years.”
At the age of 14, she began taking summer ballet programs in renowned institutions in the country such as the American Ballet Theatre’s JKO and the Boston Ballet, which even offered her a full-time opportunity to continue her studies, but she chose to remain at home. While continuing her classical training with Redick, Kampa attended the Gonzaga College High School, where she also took part in musical theatre productions.
In 2006, Kampa was awarded a gold medal in the USA National Youth Ballet competition She also won the Russian Pointe Model Search competition and was a semi-finalist in the Swiss Prix de Lausanne contest the following year. Also in 2007, she participated in the Kennedy Center Master Class Series and studied under Ballet Master Gennady Selyutsky from the former Kirov Ballet (now Mariisnky Theatre). This was a huge opportunity for the young dancer, who was surprised to be approached by the Master. Selyutsky offered her to go and study at one of the oldest and most renowned ballet academies Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia, which has trained some of the most famous ballet dancers today, including Anna Popova, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov.
Keenan Kampa: Vaganova Academy and The Mariinsky Theatre
Starting in 2007 at the age of 18, Kampa attended the academy for three years until 2010, becoming the first American to have the privilege to study with the Russian masters. During her training in Russia, where she studied under the artistic direction of former Mariinsky Theatre prima Altynai Asylmuratova and professor Tatiana Udalenkova, she toured with the Academy to Italy and performed the role of Masha in The Nutcracker. She was also the first foreigner to perform the part at the Mariisky Theatre, which is closely associated with Vaganova Academy. She graduated the Academy with a full Russian diploma – an uncommon honor for foreign students in Russia. Upon her graduation, however, Kampa was not offered a spot in the Mariinsky Theatre ensemble, as she had hoped. She had to return to the US, where she joined the Boston Ballet under artistic director Mikko Nissinen.
While under contract with the Boston Ballet, Kampa had an opportunity to perform at a gala in Indianapolis, for which she could choose her partner. She requested her former partner at the Vaganova Academy Alexey Popov. She flew back to Russia to rehearse with him, where Selyutski took notice of her and informally auditioned her alongside the Mariinsky Theatre director Yuri Fateyev. After she performed for them, Fateyev offered Kampa a contract with the company, but she was already committed to the Boston Ballet for the upcoming season. An arrangement was ultimately made that upon completion of her contract with the Boston Ballet, Kampa would join the Russian ballet in the summer of 2012 at the rank of Coryphee.
Keenan Kampa: Film and Recent Projects
Kampa has recently had to return to the US from Russia due to a hip injury, but there were still opportunities coming her way. Her most recent work includes the dance comedy-drama High Strung, where she plays Rudy an ambitious classical dancer from the Midwest, struggling to master the contemporary technique in a rigorous fictional academy in Manhattan. She meets struggling British violinist Johnnie facing deportation, played by Nicholas Galitzine, and their romance leads them to a joint competition, where his future is on the line. Kampa also shared with uInterview that approaching the film, “Ballet was familiar territory… It was something I am comfortable and confident with.” She also easily bonded with members of the cast and had instant chemistry with Galitzine.