The Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet is a school of classical ballet in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Established in 1738 during the reign of Empress Anna, the academy was known as the Imperial Ballet School up until Soviet times, when, after a brief hiatus, the school was re-established as the Leningrad State Choreographic Institute. In 1957, the school was renamed in honor of the renowned pedagogue Agrippina Vaganova, who cultivated the method of classical ballet training that has been taught there since the late 1920s. Graduates of the school include some of the most famous ballet dancers, choreographers and teachers in history and many of the world's leading ballet schools have adopted elements of the Vaganova method into their own training.
The Vaganova Academy is the associate school of the Mariinsky Ballet, one of the world's leading ballet companies. Students of the school have found employment with ballet and contemporary companies worldwide, such as the Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and the Mikhailovsky Ballet.
The Vaganova academy which some consider the source of modern ballet is now over 275 years old. The Academy has over 300 students. As in other similar institutions, competition for a place at the school is very fierce, with over 3,000 children auditioning each year, 300 of these being from St. Petersburg. Approximately 60 students are selected annually, with some 25 eventually graduating from the school having completed the full course of training. The school employs approximately 75 dance teachers, 30 piano teachers, 40 academic teachers and 40 accompanists.
Auditions for the school begin in June, and children must be at least 11 years to up.
The audition process is divided into three sections:
1. Aptitude: to assess the candidate's proportions, height of jump, degree of turnout and general appearance etc.
2. Physical: an examination by a specialist medical practitioner to assess the physiological possibilities of the candidate
3. Artistic: to assess the candidate's musicality, rhythm, co-ordination and artistic talent.
All students at the school begin by studying a programme of dance training, secondary school level education, French language and piano lessons. As they progress through the school, the programme becomes more intensive, with new subjects being added to the curriculum as the students become more advanced. In the first year, students study classical and historical dance progressing to character dance in the fourth year and pas de deux and mime in the sixth year. At the end of the 8th year of training, all students dance in a graduation gala at the Mariinsky Theatre. The most successful students may be offered a contract with the Mariinsky Ballet company, with the majority seeking employment with ballet companies in Russia and worldwide, including leading companies such as the Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Ballet, and the American Ballet Theatre.