Cherished Moments on the Dance Floor Series: Vanessa Zahorian & Davit Karapetyan

July 1, 2013

Every time you turn around, there’s a social event where either you or someone you know is expected to dance. If it’s not a wedding, then it’s an anniversary party, a quinceañera, a bar mitzvah, you name it. Yes, there may be heartfelt speeches and special toasts for the occasion. But the moment that most of us have been waiting for is for someone to finally…HIT THE DANCE FLOOR!

In this series, we get to look back at unforgettable dances performed by people from all walks of life.


Today, we feature Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan: 

 Principal Dancers of the San Francisco Ballet

Vanessa Zahorian & Davit Karapetyan,  Balanchine's 'Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux'

Vanessa Zahorian & Davit Karapetyan in Balanchine’s ‘Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux’, San Francisco Ballet Gala, 2012, Photo © Erik Tomasson

Vanessa and Davit first met at the San Francisco Ballet and, from the very beginning, were frequently paired together in rehearsals. The photo above (click on the image to enlarge) shows the two dancing in Balanchine’s “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux” in the San Francisco Ballet’s 2012 Gala. As a matter of fact, I saw them dance this piece that night and it was absolutely stunning! Just seeing the photo above reminds me of their energy and artistry, which resonated all the way up to the balcony of the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House.


First, there was the proposal.


Davit Karapetyan proposes to Vanessa Zahorian onstage after Tomasson’s 2010 ‘Romeo & Juliet”; Photo © Erik Tomasson

Davit Karapetyan proposes to Vanessa Zahorian onstage after Tomasson’s 2010 ‘Romeo & Juliet”
Photo © Erik Tomasson (Also in photo: Anthony Spaulding as Tybalt & Conductor Emil de Cou)


Like a scene from an unforgettable film, Davit proposed to Vanessa on that same Opera House stage following a performance of Romeo and Juliet. See the story here.



Later, the two were married in Davit’s hometown – Yerevan, Armenia.


Vanessa Zahorian & Davit Karapetyan with lovely Bridesmaid  (Photo: Hovik Karapetyan, 2011)

Vanessa Zahorian & Davit Karapetyan with lovely bridesmaid, Vanessa’s sister Gabriella
Photo: Hovik Karapetyan, 2011


Although Vanessa is originally from Pennsylvania, she and Davit have a mutual Armenian heritage. This lovely photograph above was taken at the site of their wedding in Yerevan, Armenia by Hovik Karapetyan. For more details on the wedding see Odette’s Ordeal: San Francisco Ballet’s Royal Wedding.



Afterwards, the reception was held at the scenic LaTar Hotel, also in Yerevan.


LaTar in Yerevan, Armenia

LaTar in Yerevan, Armenia (Click on link to the left to go to their website.)


 Now, for the moment we have all been waiting for!!

The couple chose a traditional Armenian melody to accompany their entrance onto the dance floor. What follows is an elegant duet to a fun and exotic tune that you are almost certain to recognize. This piece has been recorded by numerous artists over the years, but was originally composed by the Mexican bandleader, Pablo Beltrán Ruiz in 1953. The original title is “¿Quién será?” and the American version “Sway” is what you’ll hear below. This version was recorded by the pop/R&B group the Pussycat Dolls.


DanseTrack – We asked Vanessa how she and Davit came up with this idea.

Vanessa Zahorian (© David Allen) source

Vanessa Zahorian (© David Allen) Source

Vanessa Zahorian – “We fell in love with the music “Sway” after watching “Shall We Dance” with Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez. We were in love with the song and couldn’t stop thinking about it. We then knew we loved tango-style ballroom dancing because we are faithful watchers of “Dancing With The Stars” and Argentine tango is our favorite ballroom dance. I knew I had a huge, heavy dress with lots of material to work with so I told Davit we couldn’t do lifts or complicated moves. Nothing sharp. We rehearsed the dance in Armenia two weeks before our wedding. At first we didn’t have any ideas, but it really came to us quickly! His family encouraged us and helped by watching and giving us pointers! But Davit and I did it all ourselves. It was so much fun to choreograph. I never really choreographed before. The music was tricky because it repeated but we didn’t want it to be too even or boring. We needed to keep it exciting because the audience needed to focus on our upper bodies and patterns since the dress was so big. I was also afraid I would step on my dress or slip out of my stilettos.”


DanseTrack – We were curious to know how Vanessa and Davit felt once that big moment arrived. We asked if, as professional dancers, they just clicked into performance mode or if the circumstances made it completely overwhelming?

Vanessa Zahorian – “I was nervous before the dance and really had to focus and remember it with all of the excitement of the wedding. I didn’t want to blank out. Davit was changing choreography even that day because we had practiced a little with the dress and it was too large for some of the lifts we wanted to do. We practiced in the conference room. I couldn’t eat before because I didn’t want to feel full while dancing. Typical performance mode mentality. There was a sort of relaxed feel to our dance because I knew, whatever we did, everyone loved us. They wouldn’t care if we messed up! They wouldn’t even know. No one knew our dance like we did. We also improvised a little. So it was really spontaneous and since we are both skilled professional dancers, it came easy to us. We fed off of each other’s moves. It felt complete!”

(Here’s the video! It may take a moment to load.)



While most dancers would probably agree that there is something memorable about each and every performance, there is nothing that compares to the first dance at your wedding. This was truly a dance to remember.

Thank you,Vanessa and Davit!

Stay tuned for the continuation of our series “Cherished Moments on the Dance Floor”.


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