Agrippina Vaganova – Queen of variations
Agrippina Vaganova (July 6, 1879 – November 5, 1951) was a Russian ballet dancer, choreographer and teacher, who created her own teaching method, known as Vaganova method or Vaganova system. Her book, Fundamentals of the Classical Dance remains a standard textbook for the instruction of ballet technique. It was first published in 1934 and translated into many languages.
In 1897 Agrippina graduated from the Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg and in the same year she was taken into the Mariinsky corps de ballet.
Agrippina was known as The Queen of Variations. She played many notable roles including Odette-Odile (Swan Lake), the Mazurka (Chopiniana), Tsar-Maiden (The Little Humpbacked Horse); she created the role of the Chinese Doll in Fairy Doll (1903).
In 1916, Vaganova began teaching at the Imperial Ballet School. She taught students who would go on to become legends of the dance. Her first great pupils were Marina Semenova, Olga Jordan, Galina Ulanova, Natalia Dudinskaya and Irina Kolpakova and many other outstanding ballerinas of the XX century.
In 1933, Vaganova staged and choreographed the celebrated version of Swan Lake with Ulanova as Odette-Odile.
In 1934 Agrippina was appointed director of the school, which now bears her name: The Vaganova Ballet Academy. This is the school that prepares dancers to perform with the Kirov Ballet.
Famous graduates of the Vaganova Ballet Academy include many who achieved international recognition: Ninel Kurgapkina, Rudolf Nuriyev, Valery Panov, Irina Kolpakova, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natalia Makarova, Yuri Soloviev, Varvara P. Mey, Galina Mezentseva, Altynai Asylmuratova, Ulyana Lopatkina, Diana Vishneva, Olga Esina and Svetlana Zakharova, among many others.
Agrippina Yakovlevna died on November 5, 1951 in Leningrad.
Russian documentary Agrippina Vaganova. The Great & The Terrible was released in 2010 as a tribute to the great Russian ballet dancer.
Vaganova connected her life with the tsarist army colonel Andrei Alexandrovich Pomerantsev. The marriage was not official, as Pomerantsev didn’t divorce his first wife.
In 1904 Agrippina gave birth to their son Alexander. Vaganova’s granddaughter Lyudmila also became a ballet dancer.