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National styles/schools of ballet


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I dont know if the title expresses this very well...


Since I've been reading Ballet Talk for Dancers, I have become aware that there must be many the different national styles of ballet teaching. Does anyone know where I can read about the different influences on teaching styles in different countries today? I dont mean the old stuff which is in books (Bournonville, Maryinsky if spelled correctly, Paris Opera etc) but whether for instance the current American style of teaching is more Russian or influenced from elsewhere, how it came to be so, and how it is distinguished from the other styles. If anyone knows where I can read about all this, I'd appreciate it, because it would be very useful background to appreciating the posts that are being put on this board from all around the world.


Many thanks,



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1. Styles of dancing are different from teaching methodologies. The point of a way of teaching is to build dancers able to dance for a wide variety of choreographers and styles. There are different codified teaching methodologies (Vagonava, Cecchetti, etc) but they all have essentially the same goal --- to produce versitile dancers who can get hired.


2. Styles of dancing/choreography can be recognized when you see them. But they cannot be codified, because that results in boring choreography. No one can say "Balanchine always did it this way on stage." Sometimes he did, sometimes he did not. Choreography lacking in surprise is boring. Consider the analog in music --- computer programs and people who have written music "in the style of" Mozart, Bach, etc. It sounds a lot like "the real thing" but is somehow never quite as compelling.


Also remember that any evening program must be interesting and have variety. Any choreographer worth his/her salt will present an evening of dances with different looks and "styles".


3. Ballet has globalized in recent years. The impact on American dancing has been profound --- i.e. there is no American style of dancing or teaching. Different choreographers of course have their own styles, but there's too much global movement to draw a line around any group of choreographers by nation and say they all belong to the same style. National styles developed in the past when ballet developed separately in different countries, each national group semi-isolated from the next.


4. As far as codified methods of teaching go, there are not very many in the world --- Cecchetti, Vagonava and RAD. Maybe one or two more. Some say Balanchine has a distinct training method, some say he just trained dancers for his immediate choreographic needs and didn't have an overall methodology that can be codified in a school.


5. All of these methods are taught in America. There are also many more teachers who do not teach according to a specific syllabus, but use their extensive background and experience to teach ballet as they see fit. Some teachers have re-thought ballet training systematically enough to claim that they really do have a distinct method, although their methods may not always be widely known. This all works because the goal of all ballet training really is the same, whether you use a codified syllabus or not.

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Davidg - many thanks for your long and informative reply.


I guess my question was stimulated by a recent comment in relation to another question, that Cecchetti influenced the RAD method. I wondered where the RAD method came from. I guess around 1920 in England some people got together and set about codifying ballet training in England. I guess they must also have been influenced by the Ballets Russes. And it seems Cecchetti. But is this the Ballet Russes part true? I dont know.


Also, on the board I've been hearing a lot more about Vagonava than I did before (in England and Australia I mainly heard about RAD with a bit of Cecchetti). Why did he (or she?) influence America so much? And so on.


"There are also many more teachers who do not teach according to a specific syllabus" - do serious teachers do this? - because the critical training is for young people, and dont they all do exams? - which have to be done according to a syllabus. I can see that for later stages people can be much more eclectic.


So I am very grateful for your reply - what you are saying really is that styles dont matter that much, all ballet is ballet and is international - which is clearly true - but I was wondering what historical influences drove the different methods, and I wonder if this is written about anywhere.


Many thanks,



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Interesting post jimpickles. I'm not sure there is much written about different national teaching styles in the present - as opposed to systems of teaching, eg RAD, Cechetti etc. But one observation I have from experience of adult ballet classes in Australia, the UK, and the US, is that US teachers in my experience (alert: huge generalisation based on classes taken at Steps, Peridance, and at Tapestry Studio and Ballet Austin in Austin, Texas!) is that US trained teachers are often much more analytical and technical - almost scientific. Whereas UK & Australian teaching tends to be more directed to external look of things - eg a constant correction I'm getting at the moment "lengthen your lower back." Whereas my previous constant correction in the US was about shoulders - but there was much more knowledge of anatomy applied tro correcting me.


But as I say, this is completely impressionistic & based on one person's experience! No basis for a valid hypothesis there I'm afraid !

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sorry to interrupt -- I'm a newbie -- what is the RAD method? :)

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I've taken classes in the US and UK and also currently have an American teacher in London, so this is a trans-Atlantic comparison only. The Russian influence seems to me much stronger in the US, & as Redbookish says this makes classes more technical and scientific. (Of course, this reflects my personal experience in Cambridge/Boston vs London.) And so my impression of RAD/English style is that it's correspondingly more lyrical.

Having experienced both approaches, the combination is fantastic. If this is globalisation, bring it on! I wonder if some entrepreneur would think of doing ballet holidays offering a week of classes in each of the major capitals?

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jimpickles, cecchetti influenced the RAD system in that it was instituted at an earlier time and so preceded it. (I'm pretty certain of this but my cecchetti training may fail me here. Anyone, correct me if I'm wrong.) This doesn't mean that there wasn't already an "English Style" but that it had not yet been classified and taught as such, so it looked to a style that had been systematically taught already. (Incidentally, Cecchetti is Italian in origin.)


Not all serious young students follow a syllabus if their teachers are of high caliber and do not need one. In my experience, a syllabus can be a hindrance if the dancing doesn't allow for some flexibility in style that would be needed as a professional. The result is training in a style of ballet rather than ballet in general. The weakness would be a professional ballet artist that could only dance in a company that catered to a particular style, (ie, an unemployable but beautiful cecchetti ballerina.)


On the upside, a syllabus system trains in a way that leaves no gaps. Steps are built upon each other in ways that lend a seamless and untraumatic entry into the next level. There are no big surprises and the teacher has consistent expectations appropriate for the level being taught. The downside, people don't always learn on a smooth curve that gradually increases. There can be big jumps to the next level and also certain declines in other areas. It would look more like a jagged line going sometimes up and sometimes down while still moving in a general upward direction. I mastered pique turns much quicker than pirouettes, even from fourth and my fouettes en tournant are nicer than my double pirouettes. Even though one is supposed to be harder and further up in level. Sometimes graded systems don't take that into account and can stifle growth in those little spurts upward because they don't always allow for experimentation.


I'm sure this was more of my opinion than you probably wanted. You can get on the Cecchetti Council of America website and I'm sure you can do likewise with the Royal Academy of Dance to get more information. They may even have a timeline that could be more helpful.



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A syllabus is a curriculum. Some high schools teach the International Bacchelauriate curriculum, some teach the AP curriculum, some teach a curriculum determined by the local town. If you have a competent teacher, you should get students well educated in biology using any or no curriculum. On the other hand, not even the best curriculum can save an incompetent teacher.


Moreover, it is important that everyone in a school follow the same curriculum. If one teacher thinks geometry should be taught in the 9th grade followed by algebra II in the 10th grade and another teacher thinks the reverse --- well, pity the student who has one teacher for 9th grade and the other for 10th grade, he could end up with two years of algebra II but no geometry!


All of this is true, whether you're talking about a high school curriculum or a ballet syllabus. A good ballet teacher will be able to train students well within any agreed-upon syllabus.


I'm not saying that style is unimportant. I AM saying that it is not really a part of training. Style is a choreographic feature particular to a "school of thought", choreographer, period, etc. Training seeks to be very neutral in its "style". That way, the choreographer can dress up the basic technical steps however he/she wishes. A good syllabus, taught by a good faculty, will not impose a style on the student. RAD is not a style of dancing. Nor is Cecchetti. Nor is Vagonava. They are all training methods. Good teachers do not ingrain affectations into their students' training. The choreographers who lived near these methods had styles, of course.


I would guess that Russian training is prevalant in the USA for two reasons:


1. Balanchine was Russian, and he pretty much brought ballet to America. Yes, he did not slavishly follow what he was taught as a child and made a lot of changes and whatever he did came to be known as "American". But scratch under the surface, and you see a Russian artist.


2. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought numerous Russian dancers to the USA. We had always known the Russians had great ballet, but had never been able to see it up close. In the 1990s, anything Russian was held in high regard, and Russian immigrants took jobs in numerous American ballet companies and schools. The quality of what they brought varied, of course, but for a while there was an exotic allure.


3. England had national support behind development of RAD. Australia has close cultural ties to England. The United States, culturally, is less likely to adopt a British system of anything wholesale, that's the way it's been for over 200 years.


I guess they must also have been influenced by the Ballets Russes.


Yes, of course they were influenced by the Ballets Russes. That company was enormously influential, many people saw them and interacted with them, and that influenced people.


Not all dancers have exams. Exams are one way of determing promotions through a training program, but there are other ways as well.


Just because a school does not follow a written-down syllabus does not necessarily mean its training is eclectic.


Read the book "Ballet 101" for an overview of historical influences, and I'm sure also a lot of references to other work.

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Many thanks for all that - those were the sort of answers I was seeking.



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Good answer! I have to agree that there is a difference between "style" and "methodology", with style having more to do with choreography and method with training. I think your response expressed what I was trying to say but in a better and more educated way.




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