There are many different styles of ballet taught around the world. Each is usually named after its founder and that person’s country: Cecchetti for Italian ballet, for example. But what are the differences between them? Which one came first? Does it matter which one you are trained in? How can you choose which one is best for you? How can you figure out which one you’re currently training in?
The four most popular styles of ballet in the U.S. are:
- French Technique – This is the original style of ballet and the foundation for its vocabulary. All other ballet techniques can be traced to the French style.
- Cecchetti Technique – (Pronounced like “check-ET-ee”) A style created by ballet master Enrique Cecchetti in Italy as a revision of the French technique.
- Vaganova Technique – (Pronounced like “va-GAH-no-va”) A technique created by Agrippina Vaganova in Russia as a hybrid revision of the French and Cecchetti styles.
- Balanchine Technique – (Pronounced like “BA-lan-sheen”) Created in the U.S. by Russian-born George Balanchine as a revision of the Vaganova technique.
Other popular styles include Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), Cuban method and Bournonville (Danish ballet). Each technique has its own special philosophy on what kinds of movements look best on the body and are best mechanically-speaking. The vocabularies can vary quite a bit as well. I’ll be posting soon to tell you more about what makes each style unique and what would make a dancer choose one technique over another.
You can usually figure out what technique you are being taught by simply reading the brochures or website of your school or asking your teacher. Especially in the U.S. however, ballet teachers may be trained in a mix of styles and end up teaching their students different things from different techniques. This can create confusion for the student, especially the student thinks she is being trained in only one technique.
It can be great for your versatility to explore different ballet styles, but only once you have reached a somewhat advanced level in your dancing. Doing so too early can confuse your muscle memory and your brain! Until you are ready, its usually best to find a teacher who articulates what technique is being taught and who specifies when you are presented with a step or vocabulary from a different style.