There are many different training programs that a dancer can follow on the road to becoming a professional dancer. Three of the larger ones are the Cecchetti, Russian Vaganova, and Royal Academy of Dance, (RAD), programmes. They all have levels for all dancers from the greenest beginner to the most seasoned student and they all have their advantages and disadvantages.
The Cecchetti technique has been developed from the teachings of the great ballet master Enrico Cecchetti by the Cecchetti Society. It is a full syllabus designed to train dancers for professional work. One notable emphasis in the Cecchetti syllabus is that the arms flow and blend from position to position more than any other technique. It is the Cecchetti technique that has formed the core of the program at the National Ballet School of Canada.
The Russian Vaganova technique is named after and derived from the teachings of Agrippina Vaganova, who was the artistic director of the Kirov Ballet for many years. In the Vaganova method, the dancers bring attention to their hands as the hands do not flow invisibly from one position to the next as in the Cecchetti method, the hands will get left behind and turn at the last moment. This is where the "flapping" look comes from that many dancers make with their hands. In the Vaganova method the exercises for each level are not set like they are for the RAD. Each teacher choreographs his or her own class according to guidelines given to them and the students dance that class in their examinations. It is the Vaganova method that forms the core of the program at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School.
The RAD syllabus is very common. It is well suited to dance classes in community dance schools where the students usually do no more than an average of one class per day. If you go to the ballet school in your community, there is a good chance you will be taught using the RAD method.
The American School of Ballet teaches the Balanchine method. Created by George Balanchine in the American School of Ballet, the Balanchine method allows dancers to dance Balanchine's choreography much more easily than other dancers can. In the Balanchine method the hands are held differently again from any of the other systems.
Each technique also has its own naming system for what direction to face, arm positions, arabasques, and some of the dance steps. For example, the arm position known as "bras bas" in RAD is known as "fifth en bas" in Cecchetti and as "preparatory" in Vaganova. However, the five basic positions of the feet are the same throughout.