Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Vanessa Zahorian trained at the Kirov Academy of Ballet and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. After an apprenticeship at the Kirov (Mariinsky) Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia, she joined San Francisco Ballet in 1997. She was promoted to soloist in 1999 and to principal dancer in 2002.
Among Zahorian’s major roles are Giselle and Myrtha in Tomasson’s Giselle, Grand Pas de Duex Ballerina and Sugar Plum Fairy in Tomasson’s Nutcracker, Juliet in Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet, Aurora in Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty, 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, Princess in Neumeier’s The Little Mermaid, and Cinderella and Stepsister Edwina in Wheeldon’s Cinderella. She created 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.
Her repertory includes Adam’s Night; Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, Apollo, Ballo della Regina, “Diamonds,” Divertimento No. 15, “Emeralds,” The Four Temperaments, Scotch Symphony, Serenade, Square Dance, Symphony in C, Symphony in Three Movements, Tarantella, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Theme and Variations, Western Symphony, and Who Cares?; Bintley’s The Dance House; Caniparoli’s Ibsen’s House and Lambarena; Lander’s Etudes; MacMillan’s Winter Dreams; Makarova’s (after Petipa) “The Kingdom of the Shades” from La Bayadère, Act II; van Manen’s Black Cake, Grosse Fuge, and Variations for Two Couples; McGregor’s Chroma and Eden/Eden; Mrozewski’s Concordia; Nureyev’s Raymonda—Act III; Possokhov’s Classical Symphony, Study in Motion, and Reflections; Ratmansky’s Le Carnaval des Animaux, From Foreign Lands, Russian Seasons, and Shostakovich Trilogy (Symphony #9 and Chamber Symphony); Robbins’ The Cage, The Concert, Dances at a Gathering, Dybbuk, Fancy Free, and In the Night; Taylor’s Spring Rounds; Tomasson’s Prism, Le Quattro Stagioni, and 7 for Eight; Vaganova’s Diana and Acteon (pas de deux); Welch’s Falling, Naked, and Tu Tu; and Wheeldon’s Continuum, Number Nine, Polyphonia, Rush, Sea Pictures, There Where She Loved, and Within the Golden Hour.
Zahorian has been a frequent guest artist and has performed at galas around the world. In November 2013, she danced the role of Kitri in the full-length Don Quixote with Davit Karapetyan at National Ballet of Armenia in Yerevan, Armenia. In December 2008, Zahorian was featured as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the PBS Great Performances broadcast of Tomasson’s Nutcracker, co-produced by San Francisco Ballet and KQED Public Television San Francisco, in association with Thirteen/WNET New York.
Zahorian’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 Karapetyan) in the senior division at the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi in 2006; the Erik Bruhn Prize in 1999; and Best Young Soloist at the 2nd International Ballet Competition in Budapest in 1996.