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Agrippina Vaganova, founder of the Vaganova method, pictured in 1910.

The Vaganova method is a ballet technique and training system devised by the Russian dancer and pedagogue Agrippina Vaganova (1879–1951). It was derived from the teachings of the Premier Maître de Ballet Marius Petipa, throughout the late 19th century. It was Agrippa Vaganova who perfected and cultivated this form of teaching classical ballet and turned it into a viable syllabus.[1] The method fuses elements of traditional French style from the romantic era with the athleticism and virtuosity of Italian Cecchetti technique.[2] The training system is designed to involve the whole body in every movement, with equal attention paid to the upper body, legs and feet. Vaganova believed that this approach increases consciousness of the body, thus creating a harmony of movement and greater expressive range.[3]


Upon graduating from the Imperial Ballet School in Saint Petersburg in 1897, Agrippina Vaganova began dancing with the school's associated professional company, the Imperial Russian Ballet. She retired from dancing in 1916 to pursue a teaching career and in 1921 returned as a teacher at the school, which had been renamed the Leningrad Choreographic School.

During the 30 years she spent teaching at the Leningrad Choreographic School, Vaganova developed a ballet technique that combined elements of French, Italian, and earlier Russian technique, and a training method to teach the technique. Tenets of the training method included development of lower back strength and arm plasticity, and the strength, flexibility and endurance required for ballet, and it incorporated a detailed instruction process that specified when to teach each topic and how long to teach it. In 1934, Vaganova wrote Fundamentals of the Classical Dance, which remains a standard textbook for the instruction of ballet technique. In 1948, Vaganova authored a book titled The Foundation For Dance (more commonly known as Basic Principles of Russian Classical Dance) that outlined her training method and ballet technique. Following Vaganova's death in 1951, her teaching method was preserved by instructors such as Vera Kostrovitskaya and Vera Volkova.

Today the Vaganova method is the most widely used ballet teaching method in Russia. The spread of Vaganova method is not limited inside Russia. It has been widely used as the most prodominant ballet training method in many other countries' ballet schools, such as Ukraine[4],, Germany[5] and China.[6] State Ballet School of Berlin is the most well-known ballet school that adopts Vaganova method outside Russia.[5] There is a growing trend among American ballet schools to adopt the Vaganova method as their training method.[7]


The Vaganova training method relies on the following principle: That all training can be encompassed and displayed in the course of one grand pas de deux.[citation needed] Students are trained to prove this principle upon graduation, thus the reason for graduation performances in which the most talented students are given a grand pas de deux to perform.[citation needed]

The steps in Vaganova's syllabus builds on a carefully developed progression in which the "basic" or "preparatory" forms are mastered before the dancer moves on to more difficult forms. This can be understood as a codified technical approach when taught by qualified teachers following the syllabus closely. The syllabus is founded upon the idea that when a dancer is introduced to a step, he or she will have developed the correct strength in foundation in order for their steps and movements to be successful. It is understood that this strength-building requires time and consistent hard work.

Students at Vaganova-based schools are expected to take daily courses in ballet as well as character dance, modern dance, calisthenics/strengthening, and study dance history, music, and language.[citation needed] Ballet demands versatility and ballet students cannot rely solely on the study of classical ballet.

Terminology used in the Vaganova method often differs from other methods, and may also vary by locale. For example, the Vaganova "grand pas de chat" is commonly called "saut de chat" in the United States, and Vaganova's "battement jeté" is often called "dégagé" in other methods.

Students at Vaganova-based pre-professional schools are expected to also take courses in choreography and pedagogy.[citation needed] These two subjects allow students of all abilities to go on to become both choreographers and well trained teachers. Frequently, students who do not pass exams for their grade in ballet are redirected into training as choreographers and teachers. This is unique to Vaganova training,[citation needed] as other schools focus solely on a future in dancing.[citation needed]


Despite its global prestige and recognition as a standardized training method, Vaganova method is also facing criticism from both students and teachers.

One of the biggest criticisms of the Vaganova method is that it overemphasizes the perfection of physical conditioning of all parts of the body, which is more innate than acquired through training. This will exclude students who do not have a perfect physical conditioning, sometimes just few parts that are unfit, from entering professional career or continuing their study.[5]

The intensity of the training method is another point that gets slammed while perhaps not Vaganova's intent. As the students' testimony of State Ballet School of Berlin scandal in 2020, the training process is always full of excessive demands and abuse from teachers, together with persistent personal humiliation and strict diet control.[5] Students are sometimes reported to face disorder and mental problems, which is a common reason for dropping out of school.[8]

Revealing clothing requirement for beginner boys by the Vaganova method is also one of the main obstacles to its promotion in America. Boys in first and second grade are required to wear white tight-fitting sleeveless tank tops and dark briefs[9][10] to assist the teachers' observation of muscle lines and tension, especially the deltoid muscle and the adductor muscles of the hip. Vaganova believed that the strength of these two muscles is crucial to the success of male ballet dancers, therefore boys must fully expose these two muscles to teachers for better observation and correction in the first two years of training.[11] However, this kind of dressing for boys is regarded as inappropriate by parents in America. American boys who do ballet are also much more shy about such excessively revealing clothing compared with their Russian counterparts. As a result, many American schools, including those adopt the Vaganova method, show much greater flexibility.[12]


  1. ^ "Ballet Teaching Methods". Russian Ballet History. Retrieved 2017-06-09.
  2. ^ "About the Vaganova Syllabus". Ballet Fantastique. Archived from the original on 2011-10-06. Retrieved 2011-10-27.
  3. ^ "The Vaganova Method". Retrieved 2011-10-27.
  4. ^ Micale, Jennifer. "Research explores ballet training in Ukraine - Binghamton News". News - Binghamton University. Retrieved 2024-02-05.
  5. ^ a b c d "Berlin's state ballet school faces abuse allegations – DW – 09/09/2020". Retrieved 2024-02-05.
  6. ^ Hernández, Javier C. (2022-07-28). "'Princes Can Be Asian, Too': A Dancer Breaks Barriers in Ballet". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-02-05.
  7. ^ Retrieved 2024-02-05.
  9. ^ "Vaganova Ballet Academy". Telegram. Retrieved 2024-02-05.
  10. ^ "Vaganova Ballet Academy". Telegram. Retrieved 2024-02-05.
  11. ^ Vaganova, Agrippina. Basic Principles of Classical Ballet: Russian Ballet Technique.
  12. ^ "boys ballet costumes: Russia". Retrieved 2024-02-05.