Agrippina Yakovlevna Vaganova (26 June 1879 – 5 November 1951) was a Russian ballet teacher who developed the Vaganova method – the technique which derived from the teaching methods of the old Imperial Ballet School (today the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet) under the Premier Maître de Ballet Marius Petipa throughout the mid to late 19th century, though mostly throughout the 1880s and 1890s. It was Vaganova who perfected and cultivated this form of teaching the art of classical ballet into a workable syllabus. Her Fundamentals of the Classical Dance (1934) remains a standard textbook for the instruction of ballet technique. Her technique is one of the most popular techniques today.
In 1921 Vaganova began teaching at the Choreographic College, so at that time was called the former Imperial Theater School situated on Rossi street (after the revolution ballet department was separated from the Drama and Music). Though she did have a respectable career as a dancer, her leadership in teaching classical dance was what gave her one of the most respected places in the history of ballet. Her own early struggle with deciphering ballet technique had taught her much. She taught students who would go on to become legends of the dance.
In 1934 she published her famous book Fundamentals of Classical Dance: it has withstood at least six editions in Russia and was translated into many languages. The same year Vaganova (along with Boris Shavrov) initiated the establishing at the Leningrad Conservatoryof pedagogic department for training of future ballet teachers which she began to manage. There, some of her dance school alumni became her students. Most important names for the dance teaching are Vera Kostrovitskaya (author of 100 lessons of classical dance), Nadezhda Bazarova and Varvara P. Mey (authors of the Alphabet of Classical Dance).
Among Vaganova’s dance alumnae were the distinguished Soviet ballerinas Marina Semenova, Olga Jordan, Galina Ulanova, Tatiana Vecheslova, Feya Balabina, Natalia Dudinskaya, Galina Kirillova, Alla Shelest, Ninel Petrova, Nonna Yastrebova, Olga Moiseeva, Ludmilla Safronova, Ninel Kurgapkina, Alla Ossipenko and Irina Kolpakova among many others.
Her teaching combined the elegant, refined style of the old French School which Vaganova had been taught by Christian Johansson, the beauty and smoothness of the arms movements of old Russian School, strong and masterly feet technique of Italian School with more vigorous dancing developed in the Soviet Union.
Shortly after her death, on 1 November 1957, the Choreographic College on Rossi Street was renamed in her honor; in 1961, it received the title of “academic” and in 1991 it began to use the name Agrippina Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet.