Press Releases

January 8, 2017

SF Ballet Dancers Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan to Lead PA Ballet Academy Following 2017 Season

SAN FRANCISCO, Monday, January 9, 2017—San Francisco Ballet has announced that Principal Dancers Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan will retire from the Company, following the 2017 Season. The married couple have been appointed joint artistic directors of the Pennsylvania Ballet Academy. This summer, the Academy will move from New Cumberland to Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, where it will open a brand-new facility. A Farewell Performance is planned toward the end of the season, with details to be announced.

“Vanessa and Davit are both world-class artists,” said SF Ballet Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson. “Over the years, I have enjoyed watching both dancers grow and flourish here and I know they will be great role models and coaches to the students at the Academy. We will miss them, but wish them both the very best in this new chapter of their lives together.”

Vanessa, who hails from Allentown, Pennsylvania, trained at the Kirov Academy of Ballet and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. After an apprenticeship at the Kirov (Mariinsky) Ballet, she joined SF Ballet in 1997, was promoted to soloist two years later, and to principal dancer in 2002. During her twenty year tenure, she has performed numerous lead roles in works by George Balanchine, Val Caniparoli, Mark Morris, Alexei Ratmansky, Jerome Robbins, and Christopher Wheeldon, among others. Among Vanessa’s major roles are Giselle and Myrtha in Tomasson’s Giselle, Juliet in Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet, Odette/Odile in Tomasson’s Swan Lake, Kitri in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote, Swanilda in Balanchine’s Coppélia, Tatiana in Cranko’s Onegin, Sylvia in Morris’ Sylvia, the Princess in Neumeier’s The Little Mermaid, and Cinderella and Stepsister Edwina in Wheeldon’s Cinderella©. She also has created a number of roles in Elo’s Double Evil; Page’s Guide to Strange Places; Possokhov’s Fusion; and Tomasson’s Blue Rose, On a Theme of Paganini, and Trio, among others.  In December 2008, Vanessa was featured as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the PBS Great Performances broadcast of Tomasson’s Nutcracker, co-produced by SF Ballet and KQED Public Television San Francisco, in association with Thirteen/WNET New York. Vanessa’s honors include an Isadora Duncan Dance Special Award for “Many Faces of Giselle,” noting stellar interpretation of the title role, in 2012; best couple (with Davit) in the senior division at the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi, in 2006; the Erik Bruhn Prize in Toronto, Canada, in 1999; and Best Young Soloist at the 2nd International Ballet Competition in Budapest, Hungary, in 1996.

Born in Yerevan, Armenia, Davit trained at the Armenian School of Ballet and Schweizerische Ballettberufsschule. After dancing with Zurich Ballet, he joined SF Ballet as a principal dancer in 2005. Davit has danced many major roles including Albrecht in Tomasson’s Giselle, Romeo in Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet, Prince Desiré in Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty, Prince Siegfried in Tomasson’s Swan Lake, Basilio in Tomasson/Posskhov’s Don Quixote, Onegin in Cranko’s Onegin, Sea Witch in Neumeier’s The Little Mermaid, and Prince Gillaume in Wheeldon’s Cinderella. In addition, he created roles in Tomasson’s Caprice, On a Theme of Paganini, and On Common Ground. Davit’s repertory is wide and varied, including works by choreographers George Balanchine, William Forsythe, Hans van Manen, Yuri Possokhov, Jerome Robbins, and Helgi Tomasson, among others. Davit danced the role of Romeo in the 2015 film of Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet as part of the inaugural season of Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance. In December 2008 Davit was featured as the Nutcracker Prince in the PBS Great Performances broadcast of Tomasson’s Nutcracker, co-produced by SF Ballet and KQED Public Television San Francisco, in association with Thirteen/WNET New York. Davit’s many accolades and honors include winning an Emmy Award for his 2015 film, Meran vor Aprink, from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, San Francisco Northern California Chapter. In addition, in 2006, he won Best Couple with Vanessa in the senior division at the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. He also received gold and silver medals at the Armenian Ballet Competition in 1997 and 1998, and was a prizewinner at the Prix de Lausanne in 1999.

San Francisco Ballet
As America’s oldest professional ballet company, San Francisco Ballet has enjoyed a long and rich tradition of artistic “firsts” since its founding in 1933, including performing the first American productions of Swan Lake and Nutcracker, as well as the first 20th-century American Coppélia. San Francisco Ballet is one of the three largest ballet companies in the United States and currently presents more than 100 performances annually, both locally and internationally. The mission of SF Ballet is to share its joy of dance with the widest possible audience—in its community and worldwide—and to provide the highest caliber of dance training in its School.  Under the direction of Helgi Tomasson, the Company has achieved an international reputation as one of the preeminent ballet companies in the world. For more information, visit

Pennsylvania Ballet Academy
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