You trained partly at the Kirov Academy
of Ballet in Washington, DC. What’s
the most important thing you got out of
The opportunity to go to Russia at age 16.
Oleg Vinogradov, the director at the time,
chose me to be an apprentice with the Kirov
(now Mariinsky) Ballet. I worked with Andris
Liepa and Ninel Kurgapkina, and took class
next to ballerinas like Diana Vishneva and
Uliana Lopatkina. It was an honor.
Since then, you spent your entire
career at San Francisco Ballet. How
have you grown as a dancer?
When I first came I was very focused on
technique. I was 18, in the corps, and all of
a sudden I was Sugar Plum. At this point 20
years later, I’m focused on the emotional
aspects of my performance. I’m not con-
cerned about how many turns I’m going to
do, or how long I’m going to balance.
How do you prepare for full-length
I need to know the story inside and out, so
I read the book. Then I learn the choreography. We rehearse in the fall and then
put things away until the season, January
through May. I like that you get to taste
it, but not perfect it. Later, before you go
onstage, is when you dive in.
You’re married to SFB principal Davit
Karapetyan. You’ve said there are
“peaks and valleys” for a couple work-
ing together. Like what?
There’s more good than bad. The best part
is actually dancing together, especially in
Romeo and Juliet or Onegin. I can portray
the story so realistically with him. The
danger is that if you’re having a bad day it’s
easier to take it out on your loved one in the
studio. You’re just so comfortable, but you
have to be conscious of their feelings as well.
What are the secrets to your success?
Focus, determination, patience, discipline.
Having my own goals and morals, which
drive me every day. Staying open, but
with tunnel vision—not being distracted
by petty gossip or drama. Just doing it for
Do you have a hobby?
I’m learning Armenian over Skype. I
speak Russian with Davit’s family, but
it’s their second language, so I wanted
to learn Armenian. It’s very hard, but I
What is your favorite role?
Tatiana, from Onegin, because it’s so
meaty and in-depth. It’s not all about
technique—after I dance this role I feel
accomplished as a dancer and actress.
At this stage in my career I want a role to
transport and motivate me. P
San Francisco Ballet’s Vanessa
Zahorian takes a multilayered
approach to her roles.
By Natalia Boesch
For more with
go to pointemagazine.com.
POINTE April/May2017 pointemagazine.com
Zahorian as Kitri
in Don Quixote