Vanessa Zahorian

Principal BallerinaSan FranciscoPhotos & Story by Lauri Levenfeld
Most every little girl dreams of becoming a ballet dancer. But very few have the drive and ambition to make it a reality. For Vanessa Zahorian of the San Francisco Ballet this dream never wavered and it was the freedom of movement and expression and the pure athleticism that enticed her ever more to stay the path.  Vanessa has traveled the world for her art, and in 2010 became engaged to principal dancer Davit Karapetyan who proposed to her after one of their staring performances in Romeo & Juliet.  
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1. What were you like as a child? Who are you today?

I was very shy outside of the Ballet but once I was in the studio I came out of my shell and opened up as a person through dance.  I expressed my feelings through dancing.
Today, I am a very open person and dancer.  I am a powerhouse, but I have this lyricism that wants to explode and I want to explore more. I am at the point in my career where I want to be able to express and explore my emotional side.  I have done all of the hard technical roles and classic Ballets and now I would like to show the softer side of myself and dance more lyrical pas de deux.  


2. What is it about you that has made your dreams come true?
I am stubborn and I always want to achieve the most.  I love being challenged and I am always happy to pursue roles others don’t see me in.

This makes me want to prove them wrong.  I don’t like when someone categorizes me as a dancer based on looking at me. I tend to surprise people, as they think I am sweet and innocent. But I have a different side to my dancing and when I get to expose that everyone is surprised,  in a good way. 


3. How has San Francisco changed or influenced your art?

I am from Pennsylvania. And so,  I was trained in America.  But I can say that moving to San Francisco has definitely changed me and opened up my world.  I’ve been exposed to so many unique things here on the west coast. I feel that people are very open and accepting and the culture is well rounded and diverse.  I’ve traveled so much in my life that I’ve grown as a person in that sense too.  

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4. You found love at the ballet, how have you and Davit helped one another to pursue your dreams individually and together?
Davit and I have helped each other by being each other’s yin and yang.  I’m a very fire driven person and strong willed personality. I am very stubborn and headstrong but Davit is as well. We both are the same fire sign of Aries but I feel that Davit compliments me in the fact that he has this side to him that is very grounding. He is able to look at situations and to not react right away. To take a step back and calm down. He helps me to calm down when I am fired up.

5. What is the biggest challenge in regards to staying focused and keeping balance?
To live in the moment and to not look too far in the future.  To think positively and to balance the Ballet with a normal life.  To not get swept up in the politics of the Ballet or to focus on anyone else’s career in the Ballet besides Davit and mine. 

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To hear more about Vanessa & Davit, a true ballerina love story, head over to my fave fashion gal Juliet Belkin of Jolie Gazette.


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