The Classical Ballet Program
The Center for Contemporary Dance prides itself on providing students with the best professional ballet training available by employing a systematic, scientific and consecutive method of instruction. The curriculum at The Center for Contemporary Dance emphasizes the classical ballet technique based upon the Russian codified training system called the Vaganova (Vah-GAH-no-vah) Method. The Vaganova Method’s scientific approach makes for injury-free training, emphasizing the simultaneous development of technical proficiency, individual artistry and a complete movement language that comes with proper placement and a strong classical dance foundation.
The Vaganova Method consists of eight standardized levels of ballet instruction, adapted by Director of Education Ms. Ingrid Lozano for use at The Center for Contemporary Dance. Below you will find an abbreviated curriculum for each level.
All non-recreational students at The Center for Contemporary Dance are required to participate in the School’s Classical Ballet Program. Slow and steady training in ballet is critical to equipping students with the strength, focus, alignment, artistry and fine motor coordination necessary to perform all dance forms, including contemporary dance, with both excellence and longevity. Students in the Pre-Professional Dance Program must fully commit to daily attendance in the Classical Ballet Program, which prepares them for entry into the professional world of dance, including both classical and post-classical genres.
History of the Vangonova Method
The Vaganova Method is a codified and precise technique for teaching classical ballet, developed by Agrippina Vaganova across her 30 years of teaching ballet and pedagogy. This method fuses the romantic style of the French ballet and dramatic soulfulness of the Russian character with the athletic virtuosity of the Italian school to reform the old imperial style of ballet teaching.
Vaganova was a student at the Imperial Ballet School in Saint Petersburg, Russia, graduating in 1897 to dance professionally with the school’s parent company, the Imperial Russian Ballet. She retired from dancing in 1916 to pursue a teaching career. Following the Russian revolution of 1917, she returned to the school as a teacher in 1921. Her system of teaching has become known worldwide as the Vaganova Method, and earned her the position of the Imperial Ballet School’s director, allowing her to train some of the most famous dancers in history.
Tenets of the Vaganova Method include the development of lower back strength and arm plasticity, and the requisite strength, flexibility and endurance for ballet. Much of her work was focused on the capability of the dancer to perform a classical pas de deux and the skills necessary for such a performance. In terms of pedagogical training, Vaganova concentrated attention on precision in a teacher’s instruction, particularly when to teach what, how long to teach, and in what capacity.
In 1948, Vaganova authored a book titled The Foundation For Dance, now more commonly known as Basic Principles of Russian Classical Dance. The book outlined her ideas on ballet technique and pedagogy. This notated and progressive training program has produced some of the best dancers in the world, including Anna Pavlova, Natalia Makarova, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, the legendary choreographer George Balanchine, and professional dancers in almost every company across the world.
In 1957, the Imperial Ballet School was renamed the Vaganova Ballet Academy in recognition of her achievements. Today, the Vaganova Method is the most respected method of teaching ballet in Russia. It is also widely used in Europe and in North America. The Vaganova Ballet Academy continues to be the associate school of the former Imperial Russian Ballet, now known as the Kirov or Mariinsky Ballet.
The Vaganova Method at The Center for Contemporary Dance
The Vaganova Method involves the systematic study of all ballet movements by breaking them down into their separate elements, and is characterized by impeccable precision, attention to detail, ease of execution, emotion-evoking grace and individual creativity. Its goal is the creation of classical ballet dancers who are instruments of artistic and creative perfection. The Vaganova Method used by instructors of The Center for Contemporary Dance provides students with a structured, scientific and methodical approach to dance which takes the human anatomy into consideration.
Early training focuses on epaulement, or the stylized turning of the shoulders and body, which is partnered with the development of total stability and strength in the back to produce harmonious coordination of the body and continuity of movement. Fundamental training in epaulement instills in the dancer an intuitive anticipation of how best to use every part of the body to evoke breathtaking results, right down to the hands and eyes.
The Center for Contemporary Dance expands upon the Vaganova Method’s eight-level system of training to include a specially designed Preparatory Program for students ages approximately 5-9 to fully prepare them for entry into the structured levels of the Vaganova Method curriculum. Pre-Professional Students who progress through all eight levels emerge fully-prepared to join professional companies or college dance programs.
An abbreviated curriculum for the Preparatory Division and Vaganova Levels 1-8 follows:
Preparatory Division classes are designed for students ages approximately 5-9 and serve as an introduction to ballet and to the School’s training program. Creative Ballet classes (ages 5-6) use familiar, fun movements to stretch and strengthen the body and to teach fundamental ballet skills. Since this is usually the child’s first experience in a ballet class, educators work first in the center, warming up the body with simple stretches and strengthening exercises. From there, playful movements teach rhythms, patterns, shapes, counting, and musical phrasing. Preparatory Ballet classes (ages 7-9) focus on building memory and listening skills, while creating a fun and energetic atmosphere for young dancers to improve upon previously learned elements. Students will begin floor barre exercises that have been carefully arranged by the School’s Director of Education to suit the needs of its youngest students; these exercises are strongly emphasized throughout the student’s tenure in the Preparatory Division, and are designed to build muscle strength, correct posture, and proper alignment in a safe, effective manner. Students will also learn age-appropriate combinations and with an introduction to ballet stories and ballet history through games, movement, and interactive activities designed to enhance the students overall understanding of the material.
As students progress through the Preparatory Division, they practice elementary exercises of classical ballet training, emphasizing creativity, posture, flexibility, foot exercises and stage direction. Also included is the development of musical/rhythmic awareness, memory/focus for the training process, and an understanding of the protocol and etiquette of the ballet studio. Floor barre will be further emphasized, with increasing difficulty added to the student’s routine. Students will be introduced to the study of acting in ballet classes through the use of games, imagery, improvisation and exercises, while also continuing their study of age-appropriate repertoire and dances. Preparatory classes also begin introducing the student to pre-pointe exercises in order to build appropriate foot, ankle, and body strength for beginning pointe work in the early levels of the Vaganova Method. Students will continue to build upon fundamental skills and muscle development as they progress through their final year of the Preparatory Division, before entering the formal Vaganova Training Method at approximately age 9. The goal of the School’s Preparatory Division is to fully prepare the student for entrance into the eight-level Vaganova system.
Classical Ballet Level 1
The fundamental requirement of the first level is the placement of the body, legs, arms and head in the exercises at the barre and in the center of the studio. Along with the primary mastering of jumps and placement of the body on the toes, the development of elementary skills and the coordination of movements are studied. For the easiest and most correct fulfillment of exercises, one begins studying with the face to the barre. In the following years, the studying continues with one hand at the barre. In order to fully understand the role of turnout, one begins studying exercises to the side and then forward and backward. Level 1 classes at The Center for Contemporary Dance also concentrate on pre-pointe exercises, in preparation for beginning pointe work.
Classical Ballet Level 2
There is a required repetition and development of skills learned in the first level with an addition of epaulement. In order to strengthen the legs, there is an increasing amount of repeated similar movements in a more advanced musical tempo. In order to strengthen the feet, a sequence of movements is done at the barre on demi-pointe. Large poses at 90 degrees in attitude and arabesque are introduced and practiced in exercises and in adagio. In all divisions of the class, attention is devoted to the development of coordination in the movement of the legs, arms, and head. For those not en pointe, Level 2 classes will continue to concentrate deeply on pre-pointe exercises, in preparation for beginning pointe work. Level 2 students who are ready to begin to work en pointe will do so first with exercises at the barre, followed by beginning exercises in the center. Character Dance is also a requirement of all Level 2 students and must be taken in addition to Level 2 ballet classes.
Classical Ballet Level 3
There is a further development of natural talents, strength of the legs, stability, and introduction of demi-pointe in exercises in the center of the studio. The exercises are now done in an accelerated tempo. There is the introduction of movements en tournant, pirouettes and battus. The continuing development of coordination of movements in all parts of the class, as well as the development of expressiveness in each exercise, is demanded and stressed. Level 3 continues the development of beginning pointe work as students gain muscle strength and control.
Classical Ballet Level 4
Stability on demi-pointe and pointe is stressed further with the introduction of grand or “big” poses. There is the introduction of preparation for turns and tours lent in grand poses, as well as the technique of tours in men’s classes and pirouettes in women’s classes. In center combinations, the use of movements en tournant is stressed, as are the basics of battus, jumps landing on one leg, and grand allegro. Coordination is developed by adding difficulty to movements, and there is a focus on softness and coordination of the arms and upper body.
Classical Ballet Level 5
Students continue to develop balance and stability. In center combinations, there is the introduction of movements en tournant on demi-pointe, turns in big poses, and pirouettes from different preparations (both stationary and on a diagonal). There is a focus on learning the technique of different turns en pointe, and developing flexibility and cohesiveness in transitions from one pose to another. More difficult forms of grand adagio with different tempos are introduced, and stress is also placed on developing elevation in grand allegro. Men’s class stresses the polishing of tours.
Classical Ballet Level 6
Tours in big poses with double pirouettes, and with different preparations, are studied. There is a focus on polishing combinations and technique of different turns on demi-pointe and pointe (stationary and traveling), as well as developing the technique of multiple pirouettes. Adagio is expanded into a larger form, much like a small variation, and there is further stress on polishing the technique of battus and grand allegro from different preparations.
Classical Ballet Level 7
The most difficult forms of adagio are introduced, including adagio with big jumps, and there is a continuation of polishing the technique of turns and more advanced sections of allegro, such as sissonne with battus and en tournant. Allegro is further developed and stress is placed on dancing each combination as if one were dancing a variation. There is also a focus on allegro combinations with traveling (on a straight line and on a diagonal) as well as en tournant, and an even larger focus on the individual presentation of each combination. At this level, the dancer begins concentrating on the artistic expression of the dance.
Classical Ballet Level 8
The final level stresses polish on the foundation of everything one has learned in previous years, as well as polish in an artistic sense and knowledge of stylistic differences in combinations, depending on the character of each piece of music. There is further development of combinations in adagio, allegro, and exercises en pointe, with the use of both classical and contemporary music. The main focus is on the development of exceptional technique and specialties, artistry and individualism.
To learn more about the School’s Classical Ballet Program, please schedule an appointment with the Director of Education and Vaganova Studies Ms. Ingrid Lozano by calling (407) 695-8366.
To schedule an assessment class for placement in the School’s Classical Ballet Program, please call (407) 695-8366 or click here now to submit a request.