The Vaganova Ballet Program at KDT is under the direction of Internationally Acclaimed Prima Ballerina and Choreographer Milena Leben, who serves as Ballet Mistress. Leben uses the Vaganova method of teaching classical ballet, a method considered to be very clean, with precise movements that express clean lines yet softness underneath, and is the most common method of teaching ballet in Russia, and is widely used in Europe and North America.
Milena Leben started dancing at the age of five in her home country of Croatia, and it took her only one year to know she would go on to become a Prima Ballerina. At the age of 12 she was awarded a scholarship to the Sadler’s Wells Ballet Academy in London, and at age 17 she became a soloist in the Zagreb Opera Ballet Company. While touring across Europe, Japan, the Middle East and India, Leben studied under renowned ballet masters including W. Orlikowsky, Zaharov, Danovsky, Zafronova, Lavrowsky, Una Kay and also Francia Russell, one the few repetiteurs responsible for staging and rehearsing Balanchine’s repertory around the world. These experiences helped distinguish her as an international choreographer as she later went on to be awarded the highest recognition at the International Arts Festivals in Venice and Prague, and was awarded best choreography for her work in The Nutcracker and Carmina Burana. Leben spent almost eight years as Ballet Mistress and Resident Choreographer of the Columbia Classical Ballet in South Carolina before coming to Houston.
Vaganova Graded Ballet Program Levels 1-6
Classes are designed for the serious experienced student. Auditions are required for placement. Classes are held from 2 to 5 days per week based on age and ability, and are designed to challenge the students technically as well as provide a disciplined environment. Dress code is mandatory and regular attendance required.
Pointe Levels 1-3
Students who are technically capable and physically developed have the option of participating in Pointe classes as part of their Vaganova training. Prerequisite: enrolled in the Graded Ballet Program.
“The Nutcracker” is presented every year during KDT’s annual Holiday Show. Auditions are held during the fall semester. Prerequisite: enrolled in the Vaganova Graded Ballet Program.
Each year auditions are held for the production of a classical ballet such as Coppelia, Giselle, and Don Quixote, or a formal concert of contemporary, classical, and modern pieces which are performed at “Enchanted Evening” during the spring semester. Prerequisite: enrolled in the Vaganova Graded Ballet Program.
Vaganova Ballet Intensive
A two week course held every summer for advanced dancers which focuses on a concentrated study of the Vaganova method taught by Ballet Mistress Milena Leben. Guest teachers are also brought in to teach classes in contemporary, modern, and jazz. A short performance is given on the final day of class.