Training in RAD vs VAGANOVA

I first trained for years in the English method of Royal Academy of Dance (RAD). It’s a system which has strict rules, like where to put your head, arms, legs, feet and fingers to a specific music count. The music for each syllabus is always the same whether you are training in Brasil or in Germany. Depending on the exercise, the teacher can choose between two musical arrangements, either the piano version or orchestral version. You can do exams that have the same standard worldwide and this is what makes the system so transparent and clear. It’s useful for everyone – beginners, professionals, children and adults alike.  

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The Russian Vaganova system also has strict rules, where to put your head, fingers, legs etc. BUT the music can be chosen by the teacher and also it is more free in terms of what exercises the teacher chooses for class. The Russian system is the older of the two. Of course ballet schools can also offer Vaganova examinations, but it depends on the teacher, what they are asking for at what age. It’s not as strictly structured and specific as RAD. 

I now have expierence in both styles. I began with RAD for many years but at the moment I’m just training in Vaganova. I have three teachers who are very different and who ask different things of you, even if it is all Vaganova. That’s so exciting and challenging. I also experienced different teachers in the RAD system, but the classes and expectations were very similar. Just a few things varied which depends on the teacher’s view and opinion, for example facial expressions.

If you are going to a different RAD class but it’s the same grade you are working on at your own school, you normally know what to do, because you know the exercises AND the music. If you are going to a different Vaganova class, you NEVER know, what will come!

Also there are some movements that are written differently in each style, some arms and head positions that are completely the other way around. RAD has many arm positions at the barre that are done in second and Vaganova more in 3rd or arabesque positions (3rd is in RAD called 5th). Or in Vaganova the battement frappé is “wrapped” and in RAD the foot is “flexed” and strikes the floor. Although some teachers do both versions of it. 

What I love about the RAD, is that it makes me feel so secure and throughout the same exercises I can show all my expressions and feelings through the music and steps. If we get new students from another RAD school, you know exactly which class they should be in. The student doesn’t have to feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, hearing the same music over and over again can get tiring and repeating the same exercises class after class. But once you’ve got it and the movements are in your muscle memory you can also focus on other things such as musicality and expression. When you only train for RAD exams, other ballet workshops and classes are challenging because there is so much to learn. You are not used to having to pick up new exercises quickly. At the first workshops I was FREAKING OUT on the inside because I couldn’t remember the steps as I wasn’t used to it. 

What I love about Vaganova is that I think they have more beautiful arms and movements during an adage or grand allegro. I prefer the combinations of the steps and positions that they do in the centre. I’m not sure if it is because Vaganova is more new to me to everything is different and exciting. Their mind is used more to remember steps and react to different music (a very big advantage in my eyes). But it is hard to put facial expressions and feelings into the steps due to the fact that music and steps change each class or week. I miss being able to really master an exercise and work on every detail of it.

I know that some people think that you HAVE to do Vaganova style if you want to become a professional dancer. However, that’s not the case. I know some very good ballet dancers who learned completely in RAD as well as many who learned completely in Vaganova. So in my opinion it mainly depends on having a good teacher who is knowledgeable and demanding with an excellent background and then of course how many ballet classes you do a week and how focussed you are as well as other dance classes and workouts you do and equally as important – your ability, passion and mental strength.

The best thing to do is to make the most of every style, One is not better than the other and preferences are very individual to each dancer based on what you love and what you are used to. I really enjoy dancing in both styles, because it makes you more experienced and challenges you more. At the moment I’m very happy with my Russian classes but I do miss the structure of RAD.

by veronika

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