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Agrippina Vaganova

Agrippina Vaganova (1879-1951) was a distinguished Russian ballet dancer, choreographer and teacher. She created her own method of teaching ballet, the method which was named after her, while her  book, ‘Basic Principles of Classical Ballet’ (1934), is still regarded as  standard of ballet instruction. The book outlined Professor Vaganova’s  ideas on ballet technique and pedagogy.
Born on June 26, 1879, in St. Petersburg, Russia, Agrippina Yakovlevna Vaganova was the daughter of an usher at the Mariinsky Theatre and  was exposed to ballet at a very early age. She attended  the Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg  graduating in 1897, and was then  taken  into the Mariinsky  corps de ballet in 1897. Talent of Vaganova was soon recognized by the veteran choreographer Marius Petipa. She became known to the critics as the “Queen of Variations” so brilliant were her solos in  Coppelia,  Don Quixote, The Little Hump-backed Horse. Vaganova  received the title of Ballerina   in 1915, a year before her farewell performance
Just before the revolution of 1917 Vaganova left the stage and took up teaching. For a time she taught in A.L. Volinsky’s private school of Russian Ballet, but later transferred to the Leningrad Choreographic  School. From 1921 Agrippina Vaganova  taught the last three finishing classes in the Leningrad  Choreographic Academy
From 1931 to 1937 Vaganova held the position of Artistic Director of the Kirov Ballet. During this period she staged her versions of Swan Lake and Esmeralda, while Vayonen staged the Flames of Paris and Zakharov produced The Fountain of Bakhchisarai . These ballets of Vaganova Period are still considered to be the living classics.
However what was of real importance – the Vaganova Method, which was developed both in the rehearsal rooms of Kirov (Mariinsky) Theater and within the walls  of Leningrad Choreographic School, now the Vaganova Ballet Academy.
Through the thirty years she spent teaching ballet and pedagogy, Vaganova developed a precise technique and system of instruction.
From her teaching emerged a string of brilliant ballerinas. The first, in 1925 was Marina Semeonova, a ballerina of great depth and eloquence. There followed others of different personalities and talents, but all had the superb  mastery of Vaganova Schooling. Olga Jordan was brilliant and flowing, Galina Ulanovsa brought more to her performances than technical perfection - she revealed unrealized depths in old roles and  when news of her fame reached Josef Stalin, he ordered her transferred to the Bolshoi Theatre, where she became the prima ballerina assoluta for 16 years. Another student of Vaganova - Tatiana Vetcheslova with  her gifts of an actress reached the heights in comedy and dramatic parts. Natalia Dudinskaya, the most beloved of Vaganova’s pupils, became the star of Leningrad ballet stage. Besides excelling in in the traditional ballets, Dudinskaya  created many roles in the modern repertoire. Alla Shelest could impart the most subtle psychological nuances.
Every spring brought forth a new ballerina of surpassing brilliance schooled by Agrippina Vaganova. In 1950 Alla Osipenko graduated from the School. Her exquisite beauty of line had no equal. In 1951 the last of Vaganova’s pupils appeared: Irina Kolpakova, a dancer whose refinement is still remembered today.
Following Vaganova's death in 1951, her teaching method was preserved by ballet  instructors such as Vera Kostrovitskaya. In 1957, the School was renamed “The Vaganova Ballet Academy”  in recognition of Professor Vaganova achievements.
There is a sculptural portrait of professor Agrippina Vaganova at the entrance to Russian Ballet Academy  which bears her name.


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