The Vaganova method of training in ballet is known as the best method out there, and the Vaganova and Bolshoi Academies in Russia, where the method is taught*, are hailed as having the finest training in the world.
For the vast majority of students, however, picking up and moving to Russia isn’t an option. Even if they did make it all the way to Russia, the academies don’t accept foreign students. Even Russian students are extremely lucky if they are admitted into either of these illustrious schools.
I can only say that now there are even fewer options for those students who want the same training that Baryshnikov, Nureyev and all of the great Russian artists had. This is very sad to me indeed, and preserving that true method has now become the big focus of this website.
So American students look for the next best thing: they turn to American teachers for Vaganova training. But there is yet another obstacle, perhaps the greatest of them all:
Most teachers in the U.S. do not know how to teach the Vaganova method, or claim that they do yet do not know the first thing about how to teach it properly. In order to become qualified to teach the method in Russia (which should be the standard we hold American teachers to as well, if we are going to have the same level of training), one must go through a rigorous degree program, only open to Russians (or those fluent in the language and who pass the highly discriminating entrance requirements).
As a result, most teachers in America merely go to Russia for a seminar, or study the syllabus (a break-down of the types of exercises/combinations given to students during each year of their training at the Vaganova Academy) rather than learning the actual method, the essential and underlying technique which dictates the way every combination, every step, indeed every movement is performed.
How do you even begin to find the rare gem of a teacher who really does know the Vaganova method and teaches it in the United States?
How To Find A Vaganova Teacher
1. Do a search for teachers who (at least claim to) teach the Vaganova method. (And if you find anybody interesting, please kindly add them to the Directory so that others can find them too!)
2. Research their credentials. Do they have a degree in classical ballet pedagogy and composition from a Russian state accredited Institute? Do they have experience working in a professional Russian state accredited ballet academy or as a ballet master in one of Russia’s ballet theaters? If yes to both of these questions, then two thumbs up! This teacher is fully qualified to teach the Vaganova method.**
Because of what I explained in the update box above, Russia no longer uses the pure method founded by Vaganova, and therefore no longer certifies teachers to teach said method. Those who received this degree recently–since probably about sometime in the 90’s at the latest–were not taught the method, but were instead taught a conglomeration of the method, mixed with other so-called “methods” at best.
I don’t mean to sound so gloomy, but this is the truth and I learned it the hard way. Don’t be ga-ga over someone just because they say they went to Russia!! It really depends on whether or not the teacher learned the method from a real “teacher of teachers” (such as John Barker, who was Vera Kostrovitskaya’s principle pedagogical student)–although this is still no guarantee–but also depends on whether or not this teacher stayed true to the method as they were taught.
Bottom line: The only real way to tell whether a teacher is good or not is by looking at their students. “By their fruit you will know them” (as a rather well-known book says).
3. Merely being a graduate of the Vaganova Academy or having experience as a professional dancer is not enough. Having this kind of experience is better than having none at all, but it is not enough to simply have been taught at the Vaganova or the Bolshoi school. In order to be the most effective teacher, one must be taught how to TEACH the method. This is the standard for teachers in Russia, so why should it not be the standard here?
4. When in doubt, ask me! I don’t currently have a list of qualified teachers in the United States, although I am working on it and hope to eventually have a comprehensive list as part of the Directory, but I can help you figure out if someone is qualified or not. Just send me the teacher’s or the school’s information (website, phone number, address, bio, whatever information you have) and I will be happy to help you.