The Vaganova Method
The Vaganova method is a method of teaching classical ballet that was developed by Agrippina Vaganova.This method fused the romantic style of the French ballet and dramatic soulfulness of the Russian characterwith the athletic virtuosity that characterizes the Italian school to reform the old imperial style of ballet teaching.
Vaganova was a student at the Imperial Ballet School in Saint Petersburg, graduating in 1897 to dance professionally with the school’s parent company, the Imperial Russian Ballet. She retired from dancing in 1916 to pursue a teaching career. Following the Russian revolution of 1917, she returned to the school as a teacher in 1921. This method has become known worldwide as the Vaganova method and led to her being made director of the school, training some of the most famous dancers in history.
Through the 30 years she spent teaching ballet and pedagogy, Vaganova developed a precise dance 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.
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. This notated and progressive training program has produced some of the best dancers in the world, including Anna Pavlova, Natalia Makarova, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, the legendary choreographer George Balanchine, and professional dancers in almost every company in the world.
In 1957, the school was renamed the Vaganova Ballet Academy in recognition of her achievements. Today theVaganova method is the most common method of teaching ballet in Russia. It is also widely used in Europe and in North America. The Vaganova Ballet Academy continues to be the associate school of the formerImperial Russian Ballet, now known as the Mariinsky Ballet.
The Vaganova method is considered to be very clean, with precise movements that express clean lines yet softness underneath. Even though a Vaganova-trained dancer would be very strong and clean, she/he would still be soft and perform well on stage without robotic stiffness.
There are eight levels up to diploma that this international syllabus follows.
Early training focuses on epaulement, or the stylized turning of the shoulders and body, which is partnered with the development of total stability and strength in the back to produce harmonious coordination of the body and continuity of movement. This core of strength enables consistently precise, easy movement of the body; the training in epaulement, in turn, instills in the dancer an intuitive anticipation of how best to use every part of his or her body to evoke breathtaking results, right down to the hands and eyes.
The Vaganova Method’s codified technical approach thus makes for INJURY-FREE training emphasizing the simultaneous development of both technical proficiency and individual artistry, and a complete range of movement expression that comes out of proper placement and a strong classical dance foundation
This scientifically proven method involves the systematic study of all ballet movements by breaking them down into their separate elements and is characterized by impeccable precision, attention to detail, ease of execution, emotion-evoking grace, and individual creativity.
The French Method
The French Method, is characterized by an emphasis on precision, elegance, and sobriety.
Ballet quickly spread from Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th and 16th centuries the French court of Catherine de’ Medici where it was developed further. In the 17th century at the time of Louis XIV, ballet was codified, when ballet dancing was restricted to men. The predominance of French in the vocabulary of ballet reflects this history. It also became a form closely associated with the opera.
Mega-star Rudolf Nureyev directed the Paris Opera Ballet and choreographed re-worked versions of the great academic classic ballets (such as “La Bayadère”, “Swan Lake”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “Raymonda”, “Cinderella”, “The Sleeping Beauty”) . His artistic direction was extremely strong, and he formed and named a whole generation of young principals (“Étoiles”), called the Nureyev Babies. (Manuel Legris, Laurent Hilaire, Kader Belarbi, Isabelle Guerin, Elisabeth Maurin, amongst others).
Since that time the French school has turned into the Nureyev school, with his very idiosyncratic style, based on all the steps that Nureyev himself excelled at. Great speed and quantity of steps, necessitating the music to be played slower are characteristic of this style. This influence lasts from the 1980s to the 2000s, when it is just starting to wane, as the Nureyev Babies retire.
The Bournonville Method
The Bournonville method is a ballet technique and training system devised by the Danish ballet master August Bournonville.
August Bournonville trained with his father Antoine Bournonville and other notable French ballet masters. He was heavily influenced by the early French school of ballet, which he preserved in his teaching and choreography, when the traditional French methods began to disappear from European ballet. What is considered today to be the “Bournonville style” is essentially the unfiltered 19th century technique of the French school of classical dance.
The technique features very basic use of arms, usually keeping them in preparatoire position. Perpetual use of simple diagonal epaulements. Vocabulary for men is essentially varied forms of beats. Pirouettes are taken with a low developpe into seconde, then from seconde, for outside turns, and with a low developpe into 4th for inside turns. Also common are the dramatic use of fifth position bras en bas (preparatory position) for beginning and ending movements. The style has many recognizable poses such as pointe derriere one arm in 5th, the other a la taille (at the waist), with a touch of epaulement.
The guiding principle of the Bournonville method is that the dancer should perform with a natural grace, dramatic impact and harmony between body and music.
Graceful epaulement, with the upper body usually twisting towards the working foot, to draw attention to and emphasize the movement. Lowered eye-line to give the impression of kindness, not raised with the expression of being proud. The eyes naturally follow the moving leg.
Great attention is paid to the shape and placement of the arms. Arms are held in front of the body in all positions, so as to be anatomically correct. Feet are low in the cou de pied position, with the toe of the working foot behind the ankle of the standing leg. Pirouettes are performed with a low leg position, a result of the long skirts won by ladies during his time.
Bournonville method is noted for developing quick footwork, as required by Bournonville’s choreography.There should be no visible effort. Even the largest, most dramatic steps should be performed in an understated manner.
There should be a visible contrast between the speed of the legs and the grace of the arms and torso. The legs are the rhythm, the arms are the melody.
The Cecchetti Method
The Cecchetti method is a ballet training method devised by the Italian ballet master Enrico Cecchetti (1850-1928). The method is a strict training system with special concern for anatomy within the confines of classical ballet technique, and seeks to develop the essential characteristics of dance in its students through a rigid training regime. The goal is for the student to learn to dance by studying and internalizing the basic principles, in an effort to become self-reliant rather than imitating the movements executed by their teacher.
The method traditionally has seven grades with examinations up to diploma level.
This method ensures that different types of steps are practiced in a planned sequence, and that each part of the body is worked evenly. Each exercise is executed to the left as well as to the right, beginning one side one week, and the other the next.
As with all ballet training techniques, the Cecchetti method teaches the student to think of the movement of the foot, leg, arm, and head, not as something apart, but in its relation to the whole body, to develop a feeling for graceful lines. Cecchetti laid down that it is more important to execute an exercise correctly once, than to do it a dozen times carelessly. Quality rather than quantity is the guiding rule. The Cecchetti Method is classic in its focus on line without extravagance or fussiness of movement.
The method includes a comprehensive vocabulary of movement, including nearly forty “adagios” composed byCecchetti for the development and maintenance of the dancer’s abilities. It is particularly noted for its eight port de bras.
Although Cecchetti insisted upon strict adherence to his program of daily practice, he also taught that the lesson of the day should be followed by studying new steps composed by the teacher to develop the student’s powers in “quick study” and his ability to assimilate new steps and new “enchaînements”
The Balanchine Method
The Balanchine Method is a ballet technique developed by choreographer George Balanchine, a graduate ofVaganova Ballet Academy and initially used at the New York City Ballet. It requires extreme speed, very deep plie, unconventional arms and hands, and emphasis on lines, especially in decale. En-dehors pirouettes are often taken from a 4th position (legs) with straightened back leg and extended front arm (i.e., a lunge, as opposed to a plie).
Also notable is the distinctive arabesque, with the dancer’s hip opened towards the audience while the side arm is pressed back, using a spiral to create the illusion of a longer, higher arabesque line. The overall illusion of the Balanchine Method is that dancers are utilizing more space in less time: speed, height, length and a syncopated musicality are created.
The Balanchine Method is taught at School of American Ballet, the school of the New York City Ballet, and at many schools of Balanchine’s disciples, such as Miami City Ballet (Ed Villella), Ballet Chicago StudioCompany (Daniel Duell), and the Suzanne Farrell Ballet in Washington D.C.
Balanchine Method dancers must be extremely fit and flexible. Injuries can be common for those inexperienced with this technique.
The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD)
The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) was established in London, England in 1920 by Genee, Karsavina, Bedells, E. Espinosa and Richardson and received its Royal Charter in 1936. Genee was it’s first president , succeeded by Fonteyn in 1954. It is one of the youngest methods of ballet also known as the English style of ballet. Its aim was to further the cause of artistic dancing throughout Great Britain and the Commonwealth, especially classic-academic dancing, and continuous improvement of its teaching standards. Now this method is also widely spread in Northern America.
The most identifiable aspect of the RAD teaching method is the attention to detail when learning the basic technique of ballet and the progression in difficulty is often very slow.
Whilst the difficulty of an exercise may only increase slightly from grade to grade, more importance is placed on whether the student is performing the step with improved technique. For example, plie exercises are employed consistently throughout the lower grades to enable the student to progressively deepen the plie and improve turnout.
The principle behind this is that if enough time is spent achieving optimal technique before introducing new vocabulary, the easier it is for the student to learn the harder steps, whilst exercising basic technique to the maximum.