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VANESSA ZAHORIAN


VANESSA ZAHORIAN – PRINCIPAL DANCER FROM SAN FRANCISCO


DISCOVERING THE POWER INSIDE

As I reminisce over my 20   year care er as professional dancer, it br ings me joy. In retrospect, I’m able to see clearly the different phases of my journey  towards  becoming  a  prima  ballerina.

I started training at the  Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet  with Marcia Dale Weary  , in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, at the age of five.  At the time,  I also really like gymnastics and had to choose between the two. In the end, my parents decided I should do ballet because I was always dancing around the house in my tutu, and would even sleep in it. When I was 11, I received a scholarship from Natalia Dudinskaya to attend the  Vaganova Ballet  Academy in St. Petersburg. But I was so young, and given the political climate at the time my family and I decided I should stay home. When I was 13, I moved to the  Kirov Academy in Washington D.C. to further my Russian training. This opportunity led to me being the first American to be sponsored by the Prince of Monaco to be an apprentice at the  Kirov Ballet, in St. Petersburg. There, I learned the full length  Giselle  under And  ris Liepa and Ninel Kurgap  kina.


BEING A PROFESSIONAL DANCER IS MUCH MORE THAN JUST A JOB. IT’S A PASSION THAT MAKES WAY FOR SOMETHING INCREDIBLE.


Being in Russia made me realize that I wanted to dance in a company closer to home.   M  y dear teacher and partnering coach  ,  Richard Cook  , encouraged me   to go to the cattle call audition for   San Francisco Ballet. After the audition, Helgi Tomasson, the Artistic Director, offered me a corps contract on the sp  ot. Even though my heart was se  t on dancing for   American Ballet Theater or   Boston Ballet, they both offered me apprentice or second company positions. I knew I wouldn’t be content if I didn’t have a solid corps contract. So, I moved west to San Francisco  .

The beginning, when I was 18, was pure excitement. I was so eager to see the world. All I wanted was to be the best I could be. At this  time, the emotional aspect of performing wasn’t as import  ant as the technical. However,  instead of worrying how many pirouettes I do, I’m more interested in exploring a deeper meaning. Today, in my career, I am in a place where I like to pursue more emotional roles in story ballets, not just the technical and athletic parts. As an artist, this is what fulfills me the most. In fact, my dream role is  Manon.

The ability to stay focused is an essential part of a successful  dance  career.  When  I joined  San Francisco Ballet  , I was nothing but focused  .  After all, it was a dream come true!  Two years after joining the corps, I was promoted to soloist, and two years after that  ,  I was  promoted to principal. After a bit of time had passed, something  shifted 

Suddenly, I began to enjoy a more normal  life, which included  exploring  romantic relationships  . I felt that that I needed to enrich my life beyond ballet.  So n  aturally, I began to explore. I both fell in love and was heart broken.  This  was a  challenging  time  for  me, emotionally. I had trouble navigating  the boundaries  between  professional and personal relationships.

Part of being a ballerina is sharing your craft. Damian Smith, a former principal at  SFB, asked me to film a    day in the life    segment for  mode.com. And together with Team Zarely we have organized a number wonderful photo projects with such amazing photographers as  Rachel Neville and  Karolina Kuras, livestream interviews and Gala projects.

I began to feel that I needed to make a change. I did a few auditions, and even considered moving to Europe or Canad  a.  This  was a time of exploration  where I got to know life and myself from another  angle  .  The grass is always greener on the other side, but taking risks to figure out what you really want is  part of life  .

In search of another outlet, I began to take college classes.  I had always  wanted to pursue  a  higher education, and  what better time than while you’re still dancing?  School proved to be a good distraction from problems in and outside  the studio  . Around this same time, I met my husband  Davit  . Naturally, things changed.  Our  relationship shifted how Helgi  saw  me. I finally felt like I had found a balance outside of ballet, and coincidentally I  once again  was given roles I enjoyed  . It is  always  a true pleasure to dance  for  Helgi Tomasson. He always finds a way to give dance a new flavor.  For a couple dancing in the same company, there are peaks and valleys. Even though we don’t always get to dance together, there is always the possibility for that extra  spark when we do.

Being a professional dancer is much more than just a job. It’s a passion that makes way for something incredible.  Today,  ballet has become so gymnastic.  I  hope that young dancers are able to find the same satisfaction I’ve found in diving into a personal  dialogue with  ballet  , and not just  extreme  technique.

Photos by   Rachel Neville and  Karolina Kuras


CHECK OUT ZARELY'S HIGH-FASHION ACTIVEWEAR INSPIRED BY Vanessa Zahorian

CHECK OUT ZARELY BALLET TIGHTS Vanessa AND OTHER TOP BALLET DANCERS USE DAILY


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