Various Methods Of Performing And Teaching Ballet

Topics: Ballet

Huber, 2There have been various methods of performing and teaching ballet created since its origination. These methods include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following: French, Bournonville, Cecchetti, Vaganova, English, and Balanchine. Each of these styles contains differences in technique as well as how they are taught and why they are taught in that manner. Two of the most prominent methods are Vaganova and Cecchetti. This paper will focus on outlining the similarities and differences between the histories, creators, teaching methodology, focuses, and techniques between Vaganova and Cecchetti styles of ballet.

Agrippina Vaganova was born in 1879 in St. Petersburg, Russia.  She began training with the Imperial Ballet School in Russia and continued her studies there until she graduated in 1897. Some notable teachers that instructed Vaganova were ChristianJohansson and Lev Ivanov.

After graduating, Vaganova joined the Mariinsky Ballet. Due to the high number of professional ballet dancers and the level of talent in Russia at the time, competition between dancers for parts was high and made it difficult for Vaganova’s career to progress.

During her time performing with the Mariinsky Ballet, Marius Petipa was the ballet master and the ballet was being influenced by Italian and French methods as well as the Russian style that was already prevalent and developed in Russia. Although Vaganova was cast in numerous roles during her professional career, two of the most notable roles that Vaganova performed were in Swan Lake as Odette-Odile and in The Little Humpbacked Horse as the Tsar-Maiden. Vaganova had finally reached the ranking of professional ballerina in 1915, only to thenretire from the Mariinsky as a dancer in 1916.

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When Vaganova decided to leave the stage, her career as a teacher began. Vaganova started her teaching career in 1921 at what was then known as the Petrograd State Ballet School.

Huber, 3In 1927, Vaganova choreographed The Visions of a Poet. This was her first well known piece of choreography and may have helped to launch her into her next career as an artistic director. Vaganova began working as the artistic director of the Mariinsky in 1931. During her time as artistic director, Vaganova not only focused on producing classical ballet productions andreintroductions, but also experimented with modern dance. In 1934, Vaganova published a textbook that served to outline her training methods. Originally, the textbook was only published in Russian, and it was not translated into English until 1946. The English title of the text is BasicPrinciples of Classical Ballet, and it has often been utilized by ballet teachers as a guide to the Vaganova technique. Vaganova began teaching ballet at the Leningrad Choreographic School from 1946 to 1951.  When developing her teaching, she pulled from the Italian, French, and Russian techniques that she worked with during her time with the Mariinsky.

Vaganova began to make innovations in the art by developing a method for teaching this combination of ballet styles. Vaganova created a meticulous training system that required the entire body to be coordinated and present in each movement. Her focus was on creating a harmony within the body and giving the same amount of attention to every part of the body. Vaganova believed that all of a dancer’s training and technique should be able to be displayed in a grand pas de deux. This belief is carried on still today as Vaganova students are required to be able to perform a grand pas de deux. This idea of the grand pas de deux stems from Marius Petipa’s influence on the choreographic choices of the time. Enrico Cecchetti was born on June 21st, 1850. One could say that Cecchetti was born into a career on the stage as he was actually born in a Roman theatre’s dressing room. Cecchetti began dancing at the dismay of his parents who dreamed of a steadier

Huber, 4career for their child. Cecchetti was initially trained in ballet by his father, but was eventually sent to Giovanni Lepri in florence for a more in depth study of ballet technique. He later studied under Cesare Coppini and Filippo Taglioni; both dance teachers who had previously worked with Cecchetti’s father. When Cecchetti was seven years old, he, along with his parents Cesare and Serafina, his sister Pia, and brother Giuseppe toured in America. As Cecchetti’s father, Lepri, Coppini, and Taglioni had all been trained by the same man, Carlo Blasis, Cecchetti obtained a fairly consistent and centralized ballet technique training. In his late teens, Cecchetti embarked on a European tour to begin his professional career as a ballet dancer. The performance that really sparked the beginning of his career was debut performance at La Scala. At twenty years old, Cecchetti had achieved massive success in Milan. He began to gain fame for his dancing and was thought to have been, “…the finest male dancer of his time”.

In 1878, Cecchetti got married in Berlin to a ballerina named Giuseppina de Maria. Enrico and Giuseppina had five sons together and toured as a family throughout Europe. After moving to St. Petersburg, Russia, Cecchetti was chosen by the Mariinsky Ballet to be the company’s Premier Danseur. Not only was Cecchetti a brilliant technician, but he also was skilled in mime. He choreographed and performed Blue bird and Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty.  Cecchetti began his teaching career by working at the Imperial Ballet School in 1887. However, for all of his fame and technical ability, Cecchetti did not receive a contract with the Imperial Ballet School until 1892. In 1898, he was allowed to teach the advanced classes. Unfortunately, Cecchetti was forty years old when given permission to teach the more advanced levels and his dancing career was almost over. He left his career as a dancer at the Mariinsky

Huber, 5Ballet behind and began his new job as the Director of the Imperial Ballet in Warsaw in 1902. Cecchetti left the Imperial Ballet School in Warsaw in 1905 at the request of his family due to the political unrest in the area at the time. Cecchetti briefly returned to Italy, only to turn around and open his own ballet school in St. Petersburg. His devoted formerpupils made his school a success, but he gave his wife authority over his school when Anna Pavlova requested that he exclusively train her. In 1911, Cecchetti began touring as a mime and teacher under Diaghilev for the Ballet Russes. He would be responsible for teaching company class while also still performing in the ballets. He returned to Europe and chose to live in Soho, England. He again opened up a ballet school and experienced a wealth of success with the British dancers there. He later moved back to Italy and became the Director of Ballet at La Scala, Milan. Cecchettidied at the age of seventy-eight, shortly after teaching a class for La Scala, on November 12, 1928. The Vaganova method focuses both on intricate steps as well as emotional expression.

This combination of the two comes from critiques that were given to Vaganova regarding her abilities for artistic expression during her time as a dancer. Vaganovawas often considered to be a more technical dancer, with exquisite footwork and huge jumps thatdrew the crowd’s attention. However, where Vaganova thrived in “wow-factor”, she lacked in the artistic expression necessary to truly captivate and enthrall viewers. This inspired her to shape her technique around the cohesion between intricate technique and emotional expression. Vaganova paid attention to the slightest details and would meticulously work at an exercise until she considered it to be perfect. She had a class structure that would progressively get more difficult as each class went from start to finish. Vaganova would often set an intention

Huber, 6to work on a specific movement or exercise for each class. She would continue using the same material until she believed that her students had mastered it. This method of training could be useful in ensuring that the students have learned the basic concepts before moving onto more difficult movements. Every barre exercise would have a purpose and would prepare the dancer for the next exercise, and eventually center floor work. Vaganova also believed that students should be strong not only at the barre, but that they should be technically and physically strong in the center floor portions as well. If Vaganova noticed an area of weakness in center floor, she would take the concept and apply it to barre exercises in order to build more strength. Vaganova technique focuses on building strength in different body parts in order to be able to perform both large, powerful movements and smaller, sustained movements. One of the most fundamental aspects of Vaganova technique is the épaulement.

Edward Ellison explains Vaganova épaulement as being, “…characterized by the harmonious shapes attained by the torso,arms, head and even direction of the eyes,’ This focus on the épaulement allows for the development of the muscles in the upper back, which in turn works to support all movement that stems from the torso. Vaganova technique aims to create a stable core by developing the muscles around the spine and neck. These muscles are particularly important for the épaulement, and therefore the focus on developing good épaulement technique will help to develop more stability in the dancer. In addition, the strength of the back muscles correlates tothe strength and use of the arms through port de bra. In Vaganova technique, the arms are used not as mere decoration, but rather in coordination with the greater movement of the legs. This coordination of the arms and legs can allow for greater height in jumps and a more stable

Huber, 7balance. In addition to the greater height that may be achieved through use of the arms rather than just placement, frequent épaulement work may serve jumps in another aspect. While the in-depth study of épaulement in Vaganova technique may have done more to serve artistic expression, Vaganova countered this by instilling her love of jumping into her technique and training methods. Vaganova technique has a heavy focus on allegro. While also noting the importance of adagio within a work, Vaganova had a particular interest in movements that were done off the ground. John White of the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet is quoted stating, “She felt that adagio is nice—it gives the eye a chance to rest, and has beautiful poses and positioning. But dancing becomes true dancing when you leave the earth and fly.’ In the female dancers, the emphasis is more on the petit allegro, although it will venture into more grand allegro territory. Male dancers do both petit and grand allegro, however the emphasis in male variations is on the grand allegro.

For both petit and grand allegro, a major component to successful jumps in stability. Thisstability radiates out from the core strength that is developed partly through the épaulement. Due to the use of both the back of the body and front of the body in épaulement, the muscles that helpto keep the spine in alignment are developed. This development of spinal stabilizers and “core” muscles serves to enable the dancer to perform petit allegro without overly flexing or extending in the spine. Creating a more central line throughout the dancer’s body allows for a more effective plié and therefore a higher jump, allowing for more time in the air to perform the desired movement. In addition, Vaganova technique has a fairly heavy emphasis on extreme flexibility. So while the dancers need to be strong enough to perform these large jumps, they alsoto be stretched and flexible enough to achieve the aesthetic lines required of Vaganova dancers.

Huber, 8Cecchetti as an instructor was also very diligent in outlining the progression of his class. He created a document called the “Method of Classical Theatrical Dancing”, which was the beginning of him codifying his ballet methods. In Cecchetti’s ballet classes, every part of the body was worked on in every class. This meant that the body was looked at as a whole by using set exercises for every class. These exercises were used in an aim to get the entire body into the proper positioning for Cecchetti’s style. Cecchetti method of ballet focuses on anatomy, and the hope is that the students will understand how the body is moving rather than just trying to recreate what they see. Cecchetti had his own interesting style of épaulement where there could be a turn of the head, and incline of the head, or both.  The differences betweenVaganova and Cecchetti épaulement in a couple of positions can be seen in the pictures below.

Croise derriere Ecarte Vaganova Cecchetti Vaganova CecchettiCecchetti was so detail oriented that it required the dancers to have complete control of their bodies and to be coordinated while in time with the music. He was known particularly for his Huber, 9adagios, which were often quite difficult and slow. This use of slow, sustained movement required that the dancers have large amounts of strength to be able to really lengthen and reach throughout the movements. It also required that they have a strong core to provide them with the stability and balance necessary to stand on one foot while slowly moving the gesture leg. Cecchetti dancers must have all over strength in order to achieve the balance and cohesion that Cecchetti technique demands.  The stabilizers within the feet and hips must be well developed in Cecchetti dancers so that they may find artistry and movement while maintaining a solid footing.

The class structures between Cecchetti and Vaganova are fairly similar; both carefully structured and working to encompass the entire body with harmony. Both Cecchetti and Vaganova also put a high importance on the épaulement positioning and development of the muscles in the back and core. However, what Cecchetti and Vaganova chose to do with their techniques had a heavy influence on the development of their dancers’ bodies. Vaganova’s aesthetic of flexibility, allegro, and larger jumps makes use of elongated and fast-twitch muscles.Vaganova dancers have to be strong in order to have the power to create large jumps and quick so that they are able to perform the faster and lighter petit allegro. Cecchetti’s use of balance, adagio, and cohesion requires that the dancers be very strong so that they can hold sustained movements or balances. This means that the Cecchetti dancers have to have a strong core, well developed stabilizers, and a musicality that brings all of the parts of the body together into one concise movement

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Various Methods Of Performing And Teaching Ballet. (2022, Feb 23). Retrieved from

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