San Francisco Ballet ''Nutcracker'' Opening Night

"There were surprises to fuel little-girl ballerina dreams and grown-up balletomane ravings alike, and sometimes - especially in the sensational debut of the new Russian-trained principal Maria Kochetkova - both at once.

Kochetkova, a 23-year-old recruit from the English National Ballet, is tiny and light, a sparrow. In the closing Grand Pas de Deux, she seemed hardly to touch the floor, and when she leapt toward her Nutcracker cavalier, Davit Karapetyan, for a diabolically difficult shoulder-sit, she landed as though she'd simply flitted to a fresh branch.

Her variation (you know the famous music from the game Tetris and a million TV ads, come on, sing along) was a marvel of birdlike crispness. And don't forget her fouette turns in the coda: copious doubles so natural you nearly giggled. Now throw on top of all of this Karapetyan's own virtuosity: sissones so high and split in the air they were like scissors snapping open and shut. The response from parents and children both was rapturous."

San Francisco Chronicle

"Maria Kochetkova, the company's newest import from Russia (via the English National Ballet), is a "different" dancer. Quite without the thin, elongated figure of a typical ballerina, the tiny dancer has it all: a self-possessed, intense, regal artist, she exudes the air of a genuine star."


"It wasn't until the Grand Pas de Deux by petite firebrand Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan that magical Tchiakovsky again met lush, magical dancing. Armenian-born Karapetyan is an athletic yet lyrical dancer who can combine geometrically pure virtuosity with a certain warm irony, as he did Thursday during the Grand Pas de Deux. His turns in second rotatedwith clockwork surety, and his leaps and beats were preternaturally secure. He partnered Russian-born Kochetkova, who combined a sparkling blend of robust attack and precise lyricism, effortlessly. And it was then that full magic of "Nutcracker" returned, the pairsewing up the night with enough wizardry to meet Drosselmeyer toe to toe."

Contra Costa Times