Russian Classical Ballet Academy

About A.Vaganova and her system

Vaganova's system is the natural development and continuation of the traditions of the Russian school of ballet. The creative efforts of many Russian choreographers, instructors and dancers were directed toward the perfection of the technique and expressiveness of classical ballet. Many well-known foreign instructors also worked for the Russian stage.

The skills that they imparted were assimilated creatively by the performers and were sometimes considerably altered in stage practice. The enormous experience amassed by those associated with Russian ballet was critically interpreted and systematized in the Soviet period, and became the innovative basis of the activity of Soviet ballet instructors.

This grandiose work was headed by Agrippina Vaganova, a professor of choreography, a People's Artist of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and an instructor in the Leningrad State Ballet School which now bears her name.

In the creative life of Agrippina Yakovlevna Vaganova (1879-1951) two periods can be clearly distinguished. The first of these, her stage career as a dancer, she usually recalled with bitterness. The second, her activity as an instructor after the Revolution, brought her worldwide recognition.

And yet these periods are interconnected. It is precisely in her dissatisfaction with her artistic career that the sources of her subsequent achievements lie concealed. The pages of Vaganova's recently published memoirs reveal the figure of a woman who was a persistent seeker from her very youth.

A brilliant dancer of the Maryinsky Theater, Vaganova had become famous as the "queen of variations" in ballets in which the leading roles were performed by Pavlova and Karsavina, Preobrajenska(ya) and Kshesinskaya (Kchessinska), but she received the title of ballerina only a year before her farewell benefit performance, and in 1916 she left the stage for good.

She left deeply disappointed. . . . The causes of this were rooted not only in the atmosphere of routine prevalent on the Imperial stage. Extremely self-critical and demanding, Vaganova became aware of the inadequacies of her dance technique. "It was obvious that I was not progressing. And that was a terrible thing to realize. So then, I started to feel pangs of dissatisfaction both with myself and with the old system of teaching," she wrote in the rough draft of her memoirs.

Vaganova never lost an opportunity to learn from her older stage companions, but the principal factor was still her independent work, her search for a personal approach to ballet on the basis of a critical assimilation of the experience of her contemporaries.