History of the Vaganova ballet method

Since as early as 1738, when Empress Anna Ivanovna begin thefirst ballet school in Russia, the Imperial Theatre School on Theatre Street in St. Petersburg,1 Russia and ballet have been synonymous with the ultimate in beauty and discipline. In the beginning, only the children of select servants would have the opportunity to learn to dance. In 1773, another school emerged in Moscow, attached to an orphanage. The school on Theatre Street evolved into what is today known as the Vaganova Choreographic Institute, named after its famous teacher, Agrippina Vaganova. The orphanage school has become the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Both schools are considered to be among the top ballet schools in the world and graduates of these schools can be found dancing in some of the most selective companies worldwide; including the famous Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet and the grand Bolshoi Ballet, as well other prestigious companies including the Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet, Australian Ballet, and many others. In the words of Princess Grace of Monaco, herself a graduate of the Vaganova Choreographic Institute, "To be a dancer in Russia means a chance for honor, a wider life, and perhaps a place in history."2
Despite being state funded, the Vaganova Choreographic Institute rarely reflected the political tensions or problems present in Russia or later in the USSR. "Through over 200 years, no matter what wars or famines raged outside, the children of the Imperial Ballet School have been fed well and kept warm. From the beginning they were taught to read and write, later they learned french and math and how to play musical instruments"3 The students of the school were always cared for and looked after. Ranging in age from eight to sixteen, they spent all but eight weeks a year at the school for eight years of their lives. The school, its teachers, and its students became family for the children. At ti…

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