Russian Ballet Teaching Method


The Russian (Vaganova) Method of ballet training is widely regarded as the best training system in the world and is employed by many professional ballet companies and their associated schools worldwide.  It is a scientifically proven system of teaching classical ballet that was developed by Agrippina Vaganova over 30 years of teaching, involving the systematic study of all ballet movements by breaking them down into their separate elements. Characterised by impeccable precision, ease of execution, emotion-evoking grace, and individual creativity, the Vaganova method fuses the romantic style of the French ballet, the dramatic soulfulness of the Russian character, and the athletic virtuosity of the Italian school.

Vaganova was a student at the Imperial Ballet School in Saint Petersburg, 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. This method has become known worldwide as the Vaganova method and led to her being made director of the school, training some of the most famous dancers in history.
In 1948, Vaganova authored a book titled “The Foundation For Dance” (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 MakarovaRudolf NureyevMikhail Baryshnikov, the legendary choreographer George Balanchine, and professional dancers in almost every company in the world.
In 1957, the school was renamed the Vaganova Ballet Academy in recognition of her achievements. Today the Vaganova method is the most common 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 Mariinsky Ballet.
The Vaganova method is considered to be very clean, with precise movements that express clean lines yet softness underneath. Even though a Vaganova-trained dancer would be very strong and clean, she/he would still be soft and perform well on stage without robotic stiffness.

Our expertise

Kate Reilly began her journey into in the Vaganova method at the John Cranko-School in Germany under pedagogue Ute Mitreuter-Russo, a graduate of St Petersburg’s Vaganova Academy. She continued her studies in Germany, under Russian directors and ballet masters in ballet professional companies. 

Later in Melbourne, Kate studied the Russian pedagogical methods at the Victorian College of the Arts with Robert Ray and Janne Blanche, and subsequently founded the Melbourne School of Classical Dance in 2008, in order to give local children in Melbourne access to these specialised techniques. Kate grew the school from two sisters to 250 students, many of whom have gone on to further studies at pre-professional academies around the world.  She sold the school in 2017 and remained as Artistic Director until April 2020. During her twelve years of teaching, Kate continued her studies with Nina Osipyan (Classical Ballet) and Alida Segal (International Character Dance). In 2012, she travelled on a ballet study tour to Moscow and St Petersburg, and was awarded a certificate in ballet pedagogy from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. She also completed teacher training with the Australian Conservatoire of Ballet

Examination Syllabus

We specialise in two examination syllabi: The Australian Conservatoire of Ballet (classical ballet exams) and the  International Character Dance Syllabus (character dance exams). We can support your child to achieve their fullest potential in these exams, and can offer support for other syllabi as well. Kate Reilly has entered hundreds of students over the years with excellent results. 

Australian Conservatoire of Ballet

Devised by Christine Walsh AM, The Australian Conservatoire of Ballet’s 12 year program is designed to suit the needs of all classical ballet students who are unable to take full-time dance training from an early age. The Australian Conservatoire of Ballet training and assessment program emphasises correct placement, dynamics and performing quality which are all qualities inherent in the Vaganova method. 

International Character Dance Syllabus

“The benefits of studying Character Dance are many and varied. Apart from physical and practical enhancements, there are social, historical and spiritual elements involved in this art form.

Dance and music are universal expressions of the integral emotions and artistic creativity of all human beings. All cultures express their joys and sorrows, love, excitement, fear, spirituality and core values through dance & music.

In Australia, where our culture is so richly enhanced with a multicultural population, we have an opportunity to embrace and celebrate a diverse range of traditions. By learning about different life-styles & history through the development of dance and music we can better understand, identify with, appreciate & respect peoples’ difference. This works to foster a more harmonious, and united community.

Most people feel a need or desire to acknowledge, express and celebrate their cultural heritage. Character Dance offers a unique opportunity to display the wealth and beauty of our combined cultural heritage in a professional, visually exciting and moving stage performance art.”

Alida Segal 

“Natural talents are great, but they don’t appear often enough to fill our theatres with good dancers. There has to be a method… ”

– Gabriela Darvish on the Russian method.