Keenan Kampa has already racked up some serious ‘firsts’ on her resume. The Virginia native was the first American to be accepted into the prestigious Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, from which she graduated in 2010.
After a two-year stint with the Boston Ballet, she became the first American to join the Russian Mariinsky Ballet Company.
She lent her kineticism to the G-Star RAW Autumn/Winter campaign, demonstrating the elasticity of the 3301 Jeg Skinny for maximum freedom of movement without compromising on shape and breathability. “I’ve really been looking forward to this shoot, just because it’s something different than what I usually do. It’s a change of environment, different people.”
“ Keenan describes herself as “Clean, slightly androgynous and unexpected”. A natural fit
for the unconventional style of G-Star. ”
Raised in the nearby suburb of Reston, Virginia, Kampa grew up attending matinees and master classes.
While attending a master class at the Kennedy Center her senior year of high school, Kampa was spotted by a Vagonova instructor and offered a spot at the academy. Kampa recalls. “I was just very, very fortunate to have that invitation come.”
Formerly known as the Kirov Ballet, the centuries-old Russian company and its feeder school, the Vagonova Ballet Academy, have served as the breeding grounds for dance icons Mikhail Baryshnikov, George Balanchine, and Natalia Makarova, among others. But the demanding nature of Russian dance is nothing new for 23-year-old Keenan.
Within two years, Kampa overcame the initial culture shock and language barrier, winning leading roles in school productions like "The Nutcracker," and ultimately became the first American student to graduate with a full Russian degree.
The collaboration with G-Star demonstrates the ‘Destroy to Construct’ theme. “I can say in a sense when I moved to Russia, everything about my technique in ballet had to be reinvented and that was the only way that I could have progressed and moved on. Basically being naked and having them rebuild me. I think the campaign fits perfectly with me and what I’ve had to go through.”
After graduation Keenan signed a two-year contract with the Boston Ballet. An invitation from Russia finally came a year later, she said, “It was a complete shock.” Eager to return to St. Petersburg but still under contract with Boston, she delayed her Mariinsky start date to June 2012.
For Kampa, joining the historic ballet was a chance to fully realise her artistic potential. “There’s something so special about the way the Russians dance," she said. "It’s passionate, it’s soulful, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”
A perfectionist, Kampa welcomes the rigor the Mariinsky reputation brings with it. “The challenge now is not to work to just work,” she explains. “But to work intelligently, with a purpose. Because in my head is the image of the dancer I want to be.”
Kampa took a break from dancing to attend the New York fashion week party for G-Star at the High Line Hotel. She hosted the exclusive event to highlight the campaign and launch of the G-Star Eyewear collection. Keenan introduced the show with a one-off performance from her campaign partner, Sergio Pizzorno.
Keenan describes herself as “Clean, slightly androgynous and unexpected”. A natural fit for the unconventional style of G-Star.
When not performing in ballet shoes, her preferred uniform is Boyfriend jeans and a clean top. “Always something that is comfortable and does not distract from who I am.”