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Vaganova Training - Limited Studio Time


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I've been a member of this forum for several years, and have about seven years experience in taking adult classes. I consider myself an intermediate level student. I'm lucky to have a teacher in my town who is focused on adults and incredibly supportive, and who even has adult intensives from time to time. But, I have limited time to make it to the studio each week. Once in a while I can take 2-4 classes a week, but usually it's once in studio and then 2-3 days at home where I do a barre, some center, and work on things like strength and balance. The teacher employs the Vaganova method, and it's great that she is serious about training adults the proper way. But I wonder if that is the best thing for me, since we do very little center work in the few classes I have attended. I realize it is really focused on a solid foundation, but it seems I won't get much better at things like grand allegro, cabrioles or pirouettes unless I get work in somehow, and it seems like an open adult class that has some of "everything" would be better for someone who gets in a real studio once a week on a normal basis. Would Vaganova be too little frequency, and too slow? I have also posed this question to her, but I'm interested in the thoughts of other teachers, or students who have come across a similar situation.

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Personally as a teacher, I try and give a balanced class that still trains the dancer at their current level.  

Any methodology a teacher uses needs to be understood as a full framework, including the beginning, middle, and end, and the time period they want to achieve it in.  There is no magic in any methodology that trains dancer better than other methodologies - I believe the magic is in the teacher who is applying the methodology.  So, if someone is training students who have multiple classes a day, 5 days a week it will different to a teacher adapting any syllabus to suit the time frame and available training hours that may be only 2-3 classes per week.  

I believe it is possible to do centre, turns, and jumps - no matter if you are a beginner or advanced students. It's about choosing which centre, turns, and jumps I choose - depending on what skills I have established at the barre.  Ballet is building blocks, so your plie and tendu translates into your saute.  What's the point of doing the training part, if you never progress it into anything else. If you did plie and tendu at the barre, you should be able to try a saute in the centre.  As the level of complexity and ability increases at the barre, the level of complexity in the centre should be able to increase.  Having too heavy focus on barre can affect a students development of weight transference, whole body coordination, and ability to move through space - all of which are important elements in dancing.  To me, it's just about balancing a class no matter what method or syllabus you are teaching.

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I totally agree with Miss Persistent. As a teacher who has been teaching the Vaganova program for 28 years in a private conservatory, I must say balance is key. The program is set up to develop each aspect of classical dance, slowly for sure, but also with balance. Each class should include all aspects of the classical dance class. It is important to include Centre work in all classes. I have not taught adults in many, many years and never with the Vaganova program of study as that no longer my job opportunity, however if I did teach adults in this system, I would make sure I covered the complete level which includes Centre work before moving on to the next level. The intermediate level of Vaganova schooling occurs in the 4th and 5th years of study of an 8-year program. You may want to buy a copy of The School of Classical Ballet by Vera Kostrovitskaya to learn a bit more about what this system is, what movements are included in each level and why. Yes, the Vaganova program is a slow and thorough program that was developed to train professionally oriented ballet students, but now in Russia many adults take ballet using this system. I would like to suggest you search YouTube for Ilya Kuznetsov of Moscow to see what he is doing with adult ballet students and the Vaganova program of study. 

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I’m confused? Andy, are you saying you don’t do much centre work in your Vaganova classes. That doesn’t sound like Vaganova to me at all. 

I am not an intermediate dancer but I have taken intermediate adult ballet classes from two different Vaganova teachers (one was actually from the other side of Russia I think so it was a little different from true Vaganova but what even is true Vaganova anyways, I digress). In both these classes we did considerable centre work, including grand allegro. It was less complicated then in my usual adv. classes but it still covered everything that should be covered: adagio, pirouettes, grand battements, petite allegro x2 , some sort of medium sized allegro, and a grand allegro. Oh and turns down the room. Simple exercise yes, but still very much a complete class. 


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On 2/11/2022 at 10:09 PM, Andy32 said:

The teacher employs the Vaganova method, and it's great that she is serious about training adults the proper way. But I wonder if that is the best thing for me, since we do very little center work in the few classes I have attended. I realize it is really focused on a solid foundation, but it seems I won't get much better at things like grand allegro, cabrioles or pirouettes unless I get work in somehow, and it seems like an open adult class that has some of "everything" would be better for someone who gets in a real studio once a week on a normal basis. Would Vaganova be too little frequency, and too slow?

It seems to me that your issue isn't about your teacher following the Vaganova syllabus - good ballet training is good ballet training, and all styles/techniques are basically teaching the same thing, with some local or stylistic differences (I know,  VRS and Miss Persistent, I'm over-simplifying this!)

Your issue is that your teacher isn't managing the class time. This is a difficulty in some adult classes - if it's a drop-in class in a smallish studio (in contrast, say, to the large studios such as Steps or Broadway Dance Centre) then the teacher needs to keep people coming back, ad also needs to allow adults to feel they are dancing, even if they don't have great skills or technique.

The steps you're mentioning are quite advanced for the beginner adult ballet student, and adults need a level of fitness, for example, to do grand allegro, which they generally don't have. I find this in the in-person classes I can take in my small town. And we only have a 60 minute class!

So maybe you need to find a studio/class which is a more professional class - I'm thinking of classes I've done at Steps in NYC, where you do what you can, but the teacher teaches what she is going to teach, and at the level she wants to teach. You keep up as you can. This is what I do when I can - in London or New York.

At the end of the day, Vaganova, Cecchetti, RAD - these are all particular syllabi with their own emphases - but in the end, ballet is ballet is ballet. It really wouldn't hurt to go to a different studio for a full-out class.

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I appreciate all of your responses. I have been to two of the Vaganova studio classes and one on zoom last year. In the studio, we did about 10-15 min of center (out of 90 minutes) followed by another 30 minutes of variations, where for several weeks the students are learning a variation from Swan Lake. Last week it was all warmup and barre for 90 minutes, followed by variations which I could not stay for. So with this dedicated group, which have a wide variety of ages, there is a plan to progress long-term, and the teacher thinks Vaganova would be a good fit for me, as I approach dance (and music too) from a methodical, analytical standpoint. I believe most of the other students do her classes 2-4 times per week. As Miss Persistent pointed out, I believe I've had too much focus on barre over the years, and I'm lacking in center on quickly transferring weight,  beats, and speed on petite allegro. I realize how I spend my "studio time budget" is up to me, and thankfully I have other options which would have all of the typical elements that Chasse Away mentioned. I'd like to work with the Vaganova teacher when I can make the class, as the corrections are strict and detailed, and she is really investing in a good training environment for adults. I don't often get detailed corrections in open classes. But I will try a different class tomorrow which should be the 90-min intermediate class with a full center. Due to Covid and a busy schedule in previous years, I haven't been able to make 90-minute intermediate classes on a regular basis for very long. Many adult classes in town are 60-75 minutes, and some had poor time management, so I'm hopeful that there is some untapped potential for improvement with more center work in a longer class. 

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1 hour ago, Andy32 said:

the teacher thinks Vaganova would be a good fit for me, as I approach dance (and music too) from a methodical, analytical standpoint. 

This is a wider discussion point and not aimed personally at you @Andy32 so please allow me the liberty to have a soap box moment!!

I am unsure where this thinking comes from that Vaganova is somehow the only syllabus with a steady, systematic training curriculum...  Vaganova took her inspiration from the Italian and French masters who had already established systematic training systems.  It is not fair to say that a training program as comprehensive, detailed, and extensive as Cecchetti does not have the methodical, systematic and analytical progressions of Vaganova.  It's not fair to say the students at the Paris Opera Ballet do not receive slow and systematic training because they do not use Vaganova. Personally, having trained in an English system, taught in an American 'Vaganova style' school, coached Cecchetti students and read books on every ballet system I can find - I just don't get this thinking.  They are all slow, systematic, analytical and good methods of training dancers.

I'll put my soap box away now!

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  • 4 months later...

Just thought I would follow up on this situation - it appears the teacher is doing a slow, methodical Vaganova progression for her core group of 5-6 adult dancers, and has told me I need to return to her beginner level class to reset my foundation. This is despite several years of classes, lots of study on ballet nuances and technique, and work outside of class. Are there alignment corrections I should make? Yes, and I'm working on them. But other teachers have all put me at the intermediate level, saying I'm certainly not a beginner. She also said the same thing to an adult a few years ago who was placed in advanced classes by three other teachers in town. And now at age 38, she has been accepted into a pre-pro company and is performing en pointe. So, it seems that a 90-minute class with 0-5 minutes of center work (plus 30 min variations) is part of the long-term plan for those students that work with her. It just doesn't seem right for me - given my available time, age and goals. Bottom line is my issue isn't with Vaganova, it is with this specific approach. I don't want to take another 3-4 years to be able to grand plie' with a flat back, for instance. If I use my core correctly, and strengthen quads (after having minor knee issues for a while), I'm fairly certain I can improve plie alignment much faster, as an example. (And with limited turnout, I also wonder if my skeleton can plie straight down without any hip hinge-it might just be an anatomical reality.) I just prefer to use trial and error a bit more - try the turns, jumps and beats, fail at some of them, understand why, and try to improve over time.

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Vaganova training does not advocate spending all that time at the barre. I would have to say, that is the teacher's idea.

Perhaps she does not want to mix teenage students with adult students and this is a way to make the separations? Just a thought.


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Part of dancing is being able to move through space, transfer one's weight easily, and coordinate all parts of the body - these can't really be achieved without work in the centre.  I would be investigating other class options if possible as I agree with VRS, that amount of time at the barre is highly unusual....

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  • 1 month later...

As someone who has trained in Vaganova for the past 8 years after 14 years of RAD I can kind of see where this teachers logic is coming from. 

Basically, I was put on the path that you want for yourself. The “Stay in the advanced classes and fix your technique as you go” path. I’m happy that was the route my teacher put me on.

But 8 years later I still have technical flaws from my previous training. There is a big difference between me and my fully-trained Vaganova peers. It’s really obvious at the barre. I can dance with them and easily keep up, sometimes I can even out dance them, but technically I don’t compare. And don’t get me wrong my technique has improved a lot, I have way more turnout then I used to (170 degrees compared to like 100), I have way more aplomb, nicer feet, more control overall. I love the Vaganova method, it made me into a better dancer then I ever imagined I could be. If I could go back in time I would do it fully from the start. 

So yeah as someone “on the other side” I can see the benefit of why your teacher has you on this path. It’s like 4 years of annoyance to have great technique or 8 years (like me) to have significantly better technique but not the “real deal” of Vaganova. You mention you are also doing variations so you are still dancing. 

The only thing I’m still confused about is the lack of centre. Even Vaganova level 1 has centre, it’s pretty fundamental to the whole technique…

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  • 1 month later...

I just noticed this response, for some reason - appreciate it. Do you mind going into detail on the technique differences you found? I'm even thinking of buying a Vaganova book to research it myself, and see how the foundation is added piece by piece, and if there are things I shouldn't be attempting or working on yet, until I can do the prerequisites. Or to understand corrections that I can look for as I work at home and in class. 

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Yes, buy Vera Kostrovitskaya's School of Classical Dance, N. Tarasov's The Training of the Male Dance. Two of the best I know. They will be difficult to understand, but definitely worth seeing.


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  • 1 month later...

Why the heck is N Tarasov's Training of the Male Dancer so expensive?  Currently $392 on Amazon???? Am I missing something?  

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