- Kampa on set. Photo Courtesy High Strung.
In 2012, Keenan Kampa made history as the first American to join Russia's Mariinsky Ballet. While technically a coryphée, she danced both soloist and principal roles. But in 2014, the Vaganova Academy graduate made a bold move—she quit the company to pursue an acting career. Her new movie, High Strung, opens in theaters April 8. Kampa stars as Ruby, an aspiring ballerina who, along with a talented violinist and hip-hop crew, enters a prestigious scholarship competition. She spoke with Pointe about making the film, leaving the Mariinsky and her new life in L.A.
How did you come to star in High Strung?
As dancers, we know we have a short window of time to achieve as much as we can before our bodies start working against us—and then what? For former New York City Ballet star Wendy Whelan, the thought of transitioning out of ballet after a 30-year career was particularly hard to grasp. Remarkably honest and down-to-earth, Whelan allowed cameras to capture this incredibly vulnerable moment in her career; the resulting documentary, Restless Creature, opens in New York City on May 24, L.A. on June 9, and will have a wider release this summer. In it, we watch her grapple with a debilitating hip injury and her looming retirement before embracing a new career in contemporary dance.
Fluffy snow yaks, dancing cupcakes and a slithering candy-cane worm. These, along with many more candy confections (and a creepy doctor with a massive head), make up the cast of characters in Alexei Ratmansky's new full-length Whipped Cream at American Ballet Theatre. The company, which performed the
world premiere in California in March, is gearing up for the New York debut on May 22. Needless to say, there's been lots of anticipation over pop-surrealist Mark Ryden's fantastical costume and set designs.
Before Angel Corella was appointed the artistic director of Pennsylvania Ballet and Paloma Herrera to Teatro Colón, they often shared the stage together at American Ballet Theatre. In today's #TBT, the duo take on Don Quixote's famous Grand Pas de Deux in a 1998 production of the ballet at ABT.
From Herrera's attitude promenade into a seemingly endless balance (check it out at the 2:10 mark) to Corella's crisp à la seconde turns, the (nearly) 10-minute clip is full of jaw-dropping moments. Herrera even makes throw-away steps seem anything but as she exaggeratedly presents her heel with each walk and places her hands on her hips with a dramatic flick of the wrists.
Plus, with ABT set to perform Don Quixote next week, it's the perfect way to brush up on the classic before watching a new set of all-stars take the stage, including Misty Copeland. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!
Known for her long limbs and leggy grace, Tanaquil Le Clercq was one of the most transcendent American ballerinas of her generation. George Balanchine's fourth and final wife, Le Clercq was an inspirational muse for both Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, who choreographed Afternoon of a Faun for her in 1953. The ballet, described as “a chance encounter between two young dancers in a studio," is dedicated to Le Clercq, who shines in this 1953 clip alongside partner Jacques d'Amboise.
It's often said that the key ingredient in a successful partnership is trust. In this 1994 clip from a Dancers for Life benefit performance, Royal Winnipeg Ballet's Evelyn Hart and National Ballet of Canada's Rex Harrington demonstrate trust in action as they perform Jiří Kylián's Nuages. The two stars of Canadian ballet frequently danced together, and the result is a beautiful example of vulnerability and strength. The aquatic, push-pull effect of Kylián's choreography appears seamless, as if they were breathing as one. Watch the sequence at 1:30, as Hart arches over Harrington's arm, then falls forward over her pointe shoes to her knees—it's a cantilevered moment that could easily look manhandled if not perfectly timed. But these two make it as elastic as taffy. Hart dances completely free, because she has no doubt that Harrington will catch her.
In February, I attended the Prix de Lausanne, where I moderated a series of panel discussions that were open to the competing students, their teachers and parents, and the public. One topic I was particularly excited about concerned women in leadership roles, and how the ballet world can better nurture leadership qualities in female dancers. My panelists included Korean National Ballet artistic director Sue Jin Kang, English National Ballet associate director Loipa Araújo and Gigi Hyatt, the deputy director of the Hamburg Ballet School.
There was just one problem—while there were plenty of audience members, none of the female students actually showed up. As I watched a few of them browse the pop-up ballet shop on their way out of the theater, I couldn't help but think “Don't you know this talk is for you?"
Iconic ballerina Wendy Whelan enjoyed a groundbreaking career, both in length and breadth. She danced with New York City Ballet for 30 years and has had more roles made for her than nearly any other ballerina. Despite her accomplishments, the last few years of her career at NYCB were riddled with worsening injuries and a creeping sense that others saw her as in decline. Whelan, like most dancers, knew her desire to perform would outlast what her body could do—at least within the confines of ballet.
Restless Creature, the new documentary covering her transition out of NYCB, hits select theaters in New York on May 24. It gives us a chance to look back on one of the most fraught times in Whelan's life, when she was giving her all onstage at the Koch Theater, yet battling pain and self-doubt offstage.