Forum: General

Vaganova technique is damaging to students? What?
By delinquent
On Wed Dec 09, 2009 09:43 PM

I was reading an article this morning around 2am- yeah, I'm a geek, I read ballet stuff for fun! lol. I tried to find it again online but no luck yet. It was a very well supported article, clearly written by a person who knew what they were talking about, BUT they basically said that 'for a teacher not trained in Vaganova technique to teach in the Vaganova style' OR 'for a trained teacher to try to teach the Vaganova syllabus upon a student who has been determined to not have the ideal body (as in the 100% perfect medically examined students at the academy)' could be devastating to the student and cause lasting physical problems. It went on to say that the vaganova technique was created only for students who have ideal turnout, legs of the proper length and have zero foot/ankle problems ie pronation. It discussed at length the instuction on how to utilize the back, and to not tuck under, and that once again this could not be properly done with non ideal students, even teaching arabesques and attitudes to these no ideal students would pretty much ruin the vertebrae of the spine, and leave the children dying on the dance floor before your very eyes, instantly crippled by you the non-Vaganova trained teacher, or you the trained Vaganova teacher who dares to teach non=perfect students.

Now I am not trained in the Vaganova method, being from the US I'm pretty much of a mutt, having learned bits and pieces of different techniques, so I'm no expert. I have read Vaganova's book on teaching ballet, and I have read the ever-popular Lessons in Classical Ballet. I simply don't see the 'lasting damage' being visited upon a student who doesn't have that precise looked for body in Russia. What I can see as damaging is trying to get your students to have perfect turnout like the russian girls do, and having your students force their turn out. The jist of the article is that Vaganova is too serious of a technique to be taught to the average dancer, and not only that but too much physical damage could be done in the process, that Vaganova is unsafe for all but the ideal student.

Those of you that teach or have been trained in Vaganova, what is your take on this? If I can find the article, I will certainly link it.

9 Replies to Vaganova technique is damaging to students? What?

re: Vaganova technique is damaging to students? What?
By hummingbird
On Wed Dec 09, 2009 10:19 PM
In a way they are right, Vaganova technique taught in it's pure form is bad for a non ideal body, but then so is any other Ballet technique, we have to adapt our teaching for recreational students otherwise we would cause problems for our non perfect students.

I don't know about everyone here, but I teach all of the students that come and pay for their lessons, I don't get to pick and choose who can or can't take part in them because of their body type therefore I can't teach as I was taught at my professional college. There we all had to audition and many where turned down because of physical issues that would have caused problems with professional training.
re: Vaganova technique is damaging to students? What?
By RosePremium member
On Thu Dec 10, 2009 03:34 AM
The official Vaganova method (or how else can I describe it) demands students with a 180 degrees turnout (from hips and ankles together). Even standing like this for someone who doesn't have that much turnout is damaging, yes.
All movements have to be executed keeping that turnout. That's damaging to bodies who are not able to do that, yes.

But if you skip that 180 degrees, it immediately takes away a lot of the damaging stress, and it becomes much more appropriate for most people.

The official Vaganova method is based on daily practise, from the age of 10, supported by extra classes (stretching, caractere, ....). Bodies not strong enough for so much training, will break under that.
But doesn't that go for any intensive physical training?

A good teacher is able to translate the official Vaganova method in something very suitable for amateurs, or to teach Vaganova ballet as a basic for (pre-professional) students in modern, jazz, etc.


Ilyaballet is a member on Youtube. He is a teacher at the Bolshoi school in Moskou and has placed many many many videos of his classes on Youtube. But also some of the amateurs he teaches outside the academy. And he doesn't teach 180 degrees to them. And his kids are playing just like ours.
Meaning: ballet is possible for everyone, as long as it is adjusted to the bodies doing it.
re: Vaganova technique is damaging to students? What?
By vfdtPremium member
On Thu Dec 10, 2009 06:38 AM
I agree with the above replies. I have had over 3 decades of advanced Vaganova training (3 - 4 classes/week), at a professional conservatory school, and am far from an ideal body. I have short legs, average turn-out, and can't do splits (due to short ligaments and bone structure.) However, my teachers (who were trained in Cuba by Russian ballet masters) wisely never insisted on 180 degree turn-out from those with physical limitations. I did take some classes by retired Russian primas who corrected me by insisting on 180 degrees, but as an adult, I knew not to do this to my body.

Now as a teacher, I start all of the kids (ages 7 & up) in third instead of fifth position. As they develop, those with ideal bodies move up to perfect fifth position; the others do the best they can without pronating, or forcing turnout from the knees. They still look OK when performing, as I did, in a semi-professional company. I don't suffer from any lasting damage, and can still perform if needed. My back is not as flexible as it was, but this is due to age, and I'm not in pain from it.

I think the article you read this in was from a ballet blog, recommened on DDN a few weeks ago. It was by a retired dancer/teacher who was now physically debilitated, and chose to not even teach anymore. It seemed to be her opinion, based on her personal experience, that Vaganova training was harmful to the non-ideal bodies.

I actually took a teacher's course at the Vaganova school in Russia, and they did explain how they screened out those without perfect ballet bodies. (In fact, Anna Pavlova failed this exam, but was only allowed in due to one teacher's persistence.) Given their high standards, and abundance of applicants, this makes sense for them. I personally don't want to keep good ballet training from anyone who aspires to dance. You just have to be realistic, and adapt.
re: Vaganova technique is damaging to students? What?
By J1ll
On Thu Dec 10, 2009 07:30 AM
I think any type of dance if not adjusted to the limitations of the dancer could be harmful. I don't think it's fair to single out one specific style of ballet and stigmatize it as dangerous. Soccer is dangerous if not adjusted to the age/ability level of the player. The same can be said for any sport or physical activity. The key is to have good teachers/coaches who recognize limitations and adjust lessons based on those. Also knowing what is appropriate for each age group. There was a post from a teacher interviewing for a creative movement position talking about putting 5th position and couppe's in her syllabus for 2 year olds! You must have a knowledgable teacher with a lesson plan appropriate for the age group and the ability to modify it to different capabilities within that age group. Sorry I got on a rant, I just think dance is always so stigmatized by risk of injury when in fact any sport has it's share of them...
re: Vaganova technique is damaging to students? What?
By californiadancermember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Thu Dec 10, 2009 01:56 PM
I agree with all of the previous replies, I ws trained mostly Vaganova, but being from America I also have all sorts of other methods and styles mixed in there...currently I take two ballet classes few times a month for myself and one is based in the Balanchine style and the other I would say is a mix of Vaganova and Chechetti if that even makes sense :) I base our ballet program on the Vaganova style, but then we only have one student who I would consider the ideal body type...she has natural rotation to 180 without forcing and the right portions through her torso and limbs...we basically just modify everything to be safe for each individual dancer and what their body and time in class/strength makes them capable of.
re: Vaganova technique is damaging to students? What?
By camerogirl
On Fri Dec 11, 2009 01:44 AM
I agree with the article, Strict Vaganova training when done in absolute compliance with the original method can be detrimental to bodies that are not suited for it. That is why the Kirov only accepts the ideal body type even in their young students. Also, there are some studies out that show those trained with in nothing but Vaganova are less stylistically flexible as adult dancers when it comes to performing other styles; and with every company including the Russian ones now performing Balanchine and most also doing some modern repertoire its hard to justify teaching strict Vaganova anymore. Honestly though, I don't think there are many studios left that teach it the way Vaganova 'wrote' it - I think at the very least we all know better than to force turnout so that right there is a deviation from the original method thereby making it if not 'safe' then surely 'safer' for today's students.
re: Vaganova technique is damaging to students? What?
By MissTalia
On Fri Dec 11, 2009 07:56 AM
One of my teachers was trained in Vagonova.I think what they may be referring to is the fact that in Vagonova you work in that tight fifth...forcing the turnout. Whereas when I had a checetti teacher she had us working in "open 5th" more like third. I to have had a mix. I like Vagonova for things like Sur Le Coud Pied...it really helps dancers NOT TO SICKLE. However, I never force turnout.
re: Vaganova technique is damaging to students? What?
By PaulineFerrell
On Mon Aug 24, 2020 09:31 PM
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re: Vaganova technique is damaging to students? What?
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