The main difference between other styles of ballet such as Royal Academy style and Cechetti style and Russian style, and it is an important one, is that in Russian style there is a strong emphasis on the use of the arms and also of the head position over the front shoulder, which is called épaulement and also the use of the eyes following the arm movements. Agrippina Vaganova, the great Russian teacher, was the first to begin creating beautiful arm movements and at the Cambridge Russian Ballet School we follow her style. She wanted dancers to use their whole body beautifully.
Russian style ballet classes also differ from those of other styles because most of the exercises vary from class to class.
Students therefore do not need to remember the pattern of the exercise of that day, only the technique. This large amount of free work means that the students, particularly the children, learn to pick up choreography very quickly, and do not lose interest by having to repeat the same exercises over and over in each class.
The traditional order of a ballet class is followed, beginning with the barre exercises in the usual order eg. pliés, battements tendus, battement glissés, ronds de jambes, fondus, frappés, petits battements, developpés, ronds de jambes en l’air, grands battements, and stretching. The dancers then move into the centre of the studio and again follow a traditional order of combinations, eg. adage, petit allegro, grand allegro, turns and movement from the corner. The class is usually finished with a grand allegro dance.
However for our examinations which are organised by the National Association of Teachers of Dancing, the students do learn memorised combinations for each grade, but in each exam there is an element of free work requested by the Examiners, so the ability to put choreography together easily and quickly comes in handy in the exams.