A Syllabus for Teaching the Art of Classical Ballet

Agrippina Vaganova
Agrippina Vaganova in La Esmeralda, St. Petersburg, c. 1910.

The Vaganova method is a method of teaching classical ballet that was founded by Agrippina Vaganova, who founded a syllabus for teaching the art of classical ballet. Its origins are derived from the teaching methods of the instructors of the Imperial Ballet School, school of the Imperial Ballet (today the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet), an academy that is today called the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Agrippina Vaganova graduated from the Imperial Ballet school in 1897 and danced with the Imperial Ballet until 1916, at which point she retired to become a teacher of ballet. She first began teaching in 1921 at what was then the Leningrad State Choreographic School. Through the thirty years she spent teaching ballet and pedagogy, Vaganova developed a precise technique and system of instruction. Tenets of the Vaganova method include the development of lower back strength and arm plasticity, and the requisite strength, flexibility and endurance for ballet. Much of her work was focused on the capability of the dancer to perform a classical pas de deux and the skills necessary for such a performance. In terms of pedagogical training, Vaganova concentrated attention on precision in a teacher’s instruction, particularly when to teach what, how long to teach, and in what amount. This became known as the Vaganova Method.

In 1948, Vaganova authored a book titled “The Foundation For Dance” (more commonly known as “Basic Principles of Russian Classical Dance”). The book outlined her ideas on ballet technique and pedagogy.

Following Vaganova’s death in 1951, her teaching method was preserved by instructors such as Vera Kostrovitskaya. The Imperial Ballet School was renamed the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in 1957 in honor of her. Today the Vaganova method is the most common method of teaching ballet in Russia. It is also widely used in Europe and in North America.