Students are trained in the structure of the Vaganova technique, which was developed by Agrippina Vaganova. She graduated from the Imperial Ballet School in Saint Petersburg in 1897 and then began dancing with the school’s associated professional company, the Imperial Russian Ballet. She retired from dancing in 1916 to pursue a teaching career, and in 1921, she began teaching at her alma mater, which had been renamed the Leningrad Choreographic School. During her 30-year tenure, Vaganova developed her own ballet technique that combined elements of French, Italian, and earlier Russian technique as well as a training method to teach the technique.
In 1948, Vaganova authored a book, The Foundation for Dance (now more commonly known as Basic Principles of Russian Classical Dance) that outlined her training method and ballet technique. Characteristics of this training method include developing lower back strength and arm plasticity, as well as increasing the strength, flexibility, and endurance required for ballet. A detailed instruction process specifies when each topic should be introduced to students and how long it should be taught.
The Vaganova training method rests on the principle that all training can be encompassed and displayed in the course of one grand pas de deux. Students at the Vaganova Academy in Saint Petersburg, Russia are trained to prove this principle upon graduation. The most talented students are chosen to perform a grand pas de deux at the school’s annual graduation performance.