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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Balanchine vs. Vaganova


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At my school we are trained in the Russian Vaganova method. The other day at barre I was holding my arm in second and my teacher fixed my hand and told me I was starting a bad habit and that I was starting to have balanchine arms. I was just wondering what the difference in arms are? and I think she meant the way I was holding my arms.

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I'm not sure if I can say this but it's not advice so I think it's ok...


My teachers always say that if you put a drop of water on your shoulder [while your arms are in second] the drop should roll all the way down your arm and off your index finger. And I dance at a school that is Balanchine based in technique. When our arms are in second, the arm goes down from the elbow, as opposed to straight out.

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Well, from my prior experience from Vaganova teachers, the Vaganova technique does NOT teach the arms to be straight out. The "drop of water" rule should work with Vaganova arms.


Also, as Balanchine trained at the Vaganova Choreographic Institute and was therefore Vaganova-trained, I would think the base of him STYLE would still stress the basic way to support the arms.

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Actually, Balanchine graduated from the Imperial Ballet School the year that Agrippina Vaganova began teaching there (1921 I believe; the school was not named for Vaganova until 1957), so he was not trained by her. The Balanchine style is very different from the Vaganova method, especially in terms of port de bras. At SAB I was taught to hold my arms a little bit higher and farther back than at the Kirov Academy. The hands are also very different.

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Balanchine and Vaganova were both trained under the method dominant at the Mariinsky designed by Nicholas Legat. That's their point of contact. Balanchine incorporates the nomenclature of the Cecchetti method, while Vaganova remains truer to the Legat nomenclature for steps and positions.

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