The Vaganova Method of Dance Instruction


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 Maitre 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. The method fuses elements of traditional French style from the romantic era with the athleticism and virtuosity of Italian Cecchetti technique. 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.

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. Vaganova technique is one of the only instructional methods built specifically for age-appropriate movement and physical human development.  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, and it is also used in Europe and North America.  Valley Academy for the Arts is one of the few Ballet schools in Wisconsin using the Vaganova method of dance instruction. 


Benefits of the Vaganova Method of Dance Instruction include:

  • ·         Develops acute awareness of one’s physical body in its logical function
  • ·         Supports the development of powerful and expressive movement
  • ·         Provides the necessary foundation for enjoyment of dance as a lifelong pursuit
  • ·         Reduces likelihood and incidents of injury





"Ballet Teaching Methods". Russian Ballet History. Retrieved 2017-06-09

"About the Vaganova Syllabus". Ballet Fantastique. Retrieved 2011-10-27.

"The Vaganova Method". Retrieved 2011-10-27.



The View from a Parent - Why VAA for Dance Instruction?

I grew up with dance.  I studied dance as did my sisters and my cousin who grew up with us.  My choices of dance discipline were classical ballet, tap and jazz.  Growing up in Minneapolis and attending college at the University of Iowa, I was exposed to a wide variety of performing arts, including dance.  As an adult, I continued to pursue dance as a personal discipline and attended professional dance performances whenever I was able.  I have had the profound gift of attending performances by some of the greatest ballet companies in the U.S. and abroad.  I was never so moved, however, as when attending my first Valley Academy performance of Where the Wild Things Are.  In all those years of studying, performing and attending dance performances, I had only seen children dance in a line in rehearsed repetition.  Never had I seen children perform an actual ballet where their movements told a story.  It is one thing to see adults who have had a lifetime of study and practice perform classical ballet, but to see young children seamlessly narrate Sendak's classic tale through the art of ballet was quite simply, breathtaking.  More than this, however, I was in awe of the creative process of Annemarie Abderholden who created the entire ballet from the choice of music, to choreography, auditioning and training the dancers and envisioning the costuming.  I wept through my first performance and have through every performance I have attended since including VAA's performances of:  Hansel and Gretel, 12 Dancing Princesses, Pippi Longstocking and Peter and the Wolf.  When my daughter asked to attend dance classes, Valley Academy for the Arts was the only choice in my mind.  When my daughter was no longer a student, I have continued to support VAA as a patron, a fan and now as Office Manager.  The kind of dance education Annemarie and Katharina Abderholden offer at VAA is truly unique.  As I have watched their work throughout the years I have seen that they are not only producing great dancers, they are helping to build the future leaders of our world.  Thank you Annemarie and Katharina for all you do in making our world a better place through the arts.  

Lauri Ann Lumby

Authentic Freedom Academy

Oshkosh, WI  

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