Ballet has provided us with opportunities we could have never imagined:  it has introduced us to people around the world, and been the source of friendships and relationships. Our mission is to share that gift with others to Unite by Dance. Open World Dance Foundation promotes the preservation and development of the traditions of professional ballet education.

The art of ballet celebrates the beauty of life. Russian ballet has played a key role in the development and continuation of the art form: it has given the world great classical ballets such as “The Nutcracker”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Swan Lake” and so many more, and produced amazing artists, including Anna Pavlova, Michael Fokine, Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev, George Balanchine, Natalia Makarova, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Uliana Lopatkina and Diana Vishneva, to name a few. These artists also share a common source of training at the school, once known as Imperial Ballet School celebrating more than 276 years, now named Vaganova Academy. The school was renamed after the famous Professor Agrippina Vaganova, (1879-1951) who synthesized and codified the foundational elements of classical ballet training in a way that has proven to create beautiful, expressive, powerful dancers. Very few people have access to this pure form of Vaganova training–in fact, there are just four of Vaganova’s students still teaching today. These women, all in their eighties, and other professors and teachers trained at Vaganova Academy are brought together at the Open World Dance Foundation Summer Intensive and Teacher Training to be shared with the students.


Many girls dream of being a ballerina. That dream knows no borders. Founder, Ekaterina Shchelkanova (Chtchelkanova) always wanted to dance and could not imagine her life without ballet. Luckily, her parents were very supportive and gave her the opportunity. She had a great career and felt wonderfully blessed.

Founders, Ekaterina Shchelkanova and Anton Boytsov, established the Open World Dance Foundation in 2010 after recognizing that the art form they love could help the orphans in their hometown of St. Petersburg, Russia. It started with a visit to a St. Petersburg orphanage where a young boy said he wanted to dance at the Mariinsky Theatre. This began a journey to inspire Russian orphans to pursue their dreams and led the Foundation to share the unique training developed by Agrippina Vaganova with dancers and teachers around the world as a way to inspire children to dream.


As the Foundation’s work evolved, we discovered that we could unite many more through our connection to Russian ballet and particularly, the training approach created by Professor Agrippina Vaganova in the early 20th century. The school that Ekaterina and Anton attended, Vaganova Academy, which has produced so many great dancers, choreographers, and teachers, is accessible to very few people. Students around the world seek the qualities that it teaches. We began to explore other avenues to serve, including Summer Intensives with some of the most esteemed teachers open to dancers from around the world; festivals and galas that connected dancers and audiences; and other events, such as the Baryshnikov Arts Festival that produced photographic exhibits of Vaganova Academy graduate, Mikhail Baryshnikov in celebration of his 65th birthday and the academy’s 275th year.

Read this article from “The Guardian” for a summary of the uniqueness of the ballet traditions we share.


These successes inspired the Foundation’s slogan “United by Dance”. Our goals include: using events like festivals and exchange programs to unite dancers of all ages and backgrounds from around the world through a common love of ballet and dance education; promoting and preserving dance education, particularly the teachings of Agrippina Vaganova, and following the traditions of ballet, including providing access to ballet training for orphans. To all who love ballet, join us as we strive to make the world a better place by building connections and relationships.