Keenan Kampa, the classically trained ballet dancer, makes her feature film debut in Michael Damian‘s High Strung opposite Nicholas Galitzine.

Keenan Kampa On ‘High Strung’

Kampa, 27, has been dancing since she was 4 years old. At 17, she became the first American invited to study at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia. She followed up three years of study with a contract with the Boston Ballet, and then a return to Russia to dance at the Marliinsky Theatre for a couple of years. When she got the call to be in High Strung, Kampa’s ballet career was on hold as she recovered from hip surgery.

“I came home from Russia because of my hip, and I was actually sitting in a hospital bed in Vail, Colorado, immobile, with a hip brace on, so I was on my phone a lot. And I got this tweet from Michael Damian saying, ‘Hey, um, have you ever wanted to be in a movie? We’re looking for a dancer,’” Kampa told uInterview in an exclusive interview. “Thought it was a scam at first, but saw he had a following, saw he was verified, sent him a message back, set up a phone call.”

Damian had learned of Kampa through an NBC special during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics that explored Russia’s passion for ice skating and ballet. Seeing her on the show convinced Damien and his wife that she was the ballet star that they were looking for High Strung. What they didn’t know, however, was that she was currently out of commission.

“They don’t know that I’m in Colorado recovering from very crazy hip surgery. Michael’s like, ‘Great, this is awesome!’ And I’m like, ‘There’s, um, there’s just one problem: I can’t walk yet. […] You know, my recovery’s gonna be quick don’t worry,'” said Kampa. “We just kinda took it week by week. They were ready to cast someone else too because they didn’t think that I could rehab. But, yeah, things worked out and four months later, after rehabbing like a crazy person, I went and filmed with them.”

Since this was Kampa’s first real foray into acting, she was thankful that she would be playing a dancer, making at least part of the film familiar territory for her. In High Strung, her character Ruby is on scholarship at the elite Manhattan School of the Arts. While looking for inspiration to add an edge to her classically trained style, she ends up clashing – and falling for – British musician Johnny, played by Nick Galitzine. Getting the chemistry right with Galitzine proved almost as easy as nailing the dance sequences for Kampa.

“I think from day one when Nick and I met we hit it off pretty quickly. He’s a very lovable person, and we quickly became close friends,” said Kampa. “I think, I mean, chemistry with him was very easy. Look at that face.”

High Strung is currently in select theaters.

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