Much-travelled and multi-talented Sanna Kaappola has performed around the world – as a ballet dancer, model and yoga teacher.
Now she is a long way from her Finnish home – in Los Angeles (via New York and many other places), developing her acting skills.
While she’s not working, she’s likely to be in the gym or in the ocean, so I was lucky to get her to keep still long enough to answer some questions for Piece of Pink Pie, on her career, her travels, her setbacks, and her future.
How did you become a professional dancer?
I was just five years old when me and my mum were searching for a hobby I would like to try. And I guess we found the perfect match right away. I saw an ad in a magazine and wanted to start ballet. I liked the outfit – a pink tutu – I saw in the picture.
First few years I was really shy and quiet so it brought up my discipline.
Ballet studio slowly became my second home with all of my best friends there. It became more and more serious with age, and finally it became my career.
So were any of your family performers?
No, the only artist in my family is my aunt who is an opera singer. My parents did not understand much about ballet. And that’s why I’m even more thankful for their enormous support through the years.
When did you go to New York and why? What challenges did you face, as a young Finnish woman there?
I went to New York after graduating from the Finnish National Opera Ballet School. I got a scholarship for Joffrey Ballet School’s two months summer intensive. I ended up staying for the whole year. I was so amazed to be working with such a great staff and in this incredible city. My second year I started training closely with Gelsey Kirkland who was always my idol number one. But, yeah, it was hard at the beginning … the culture is still pretty different in many ways than what I was used to in Finland. You have to be way more pushy and outgoing. And you need to know your strengths and really bring them up aggressively. It was exactly what I needed to build better self-respect. English is not my first language so there were challenges with that also. I was always better at math and physics than languages. I always trusted everyone and now looking back I got lucky I met the right people and never got taken advantage of.
Can you tell me briefly about your dancing career so far?
I first joined a few junior companies in the States and after injuring myself in Colorado I had to take some time off from ballet. I used the time wisely and became a yoga teacher. Yoga jobs brought me to Asia in the first place but soon after healing I got back to dancing. I spent a few years dancing in Singapore and Australia. In 2014 I wanted to return to Europe and I did Swan Lake with Ballet Ireland and a few smaller productions in Germany. In 2015, after visiting the Philippines for a vacation, I ended up staying and dancing with Ballet Manila and Ballet Philippines for couple of years. I was supposed to then start working in Russia with Buryat Theater. But because of visa delays we decided to plan it for the next season. So I got to do some guestings for Nutcracker in New York.
An injury can be devastating for a dancer, and I guess they’re an occupational hazard. You’ve had more than one, haven’t you?
Yes, I had a few metatarsal fractures – in both feet. Those kept me out of dancing for about three months. But I broke my second metatarsal in Colorado and that kept me out for a long time, since it kept coming back as a stress fracture. In the end I took almost a year off. That was hard! Also I have had chronic big toe flexor tendinitis for several years and it can get pretty hard to work with sometimes. I haven’t been the luckiest with injuries. I had my first bigger injury in school when I hurt my knee and missed the final shows of the year. Injuries are part of this career and make you really respect the time you got on the stage and even in the studio. Nothing lasts forever.
You mentioned yoga, and do you take part in other sports or exercise?
During my long time off from ballet because of an injury I went to Thailand and I studied to become a yoga teacher. I started teaching right away after my training and got to live in some of the most amazing places nature wise. And fell in love with the ocean. So nowadays I do scuba diving, surfing, wake boarding and anything to do with the ocean. But any outdoor activities really. I also miss winter sports nowadays – skiing, snowboarding, skating. I don’t mind spending some time at a gym either. I studied physical therapy and anatomy. And I was always interested in sport science. Movies for evenings.
Now you have moved into modelling as well as dancing?
I have been modelling on the side all that time. I was with a few different agencies in the Philippines and with One Model Management when living in Singapore. And I do enjoy shoots especially. But the most I enjoy TVCs [TV commercials] and any film work. And of course anything I can use my dance skills with. We did a pretty fun music video with the local rapper some years back. Dance is still my homeland!
You are also looking for acting roles, I believe? How is that going?
Oh yes! That is something I’m quite excited about right now. I’m taking acting classes with an amazing group of actors in LA. I’m the least experienced since they all have a lot in their CVs and they have been in the field for years. But it’s amazing to learn from them and work with them. I’m pretty open to any kind of work and roles at the moment. But we are really focusing on films. I did do a film while working in the Philippines but my lines were limited – my Tagalog (local language) is not really believable!
So what’s next for you?
I’m so excited about the future. I keep doing what I’m doing. Dancing my heart out but I can’t wait to get into acting more and more. Life is one beautiful thing – you never know what might be waiting for you behind the doors. But what I have learned on the way when travelling around and relocating over and over again – friends (old and new), relationships and family should always matter!
Thank you, Sanna. That little girl who saw the magazine ad has come a long way! Best wishes for the next stage of your career.
If you’re involved in arts or entertainment, check out the services of Weltch Media.
And if you’re interested in ballet, here’s my first review of one! Northern Ballet’s Jane Eyre
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