I am probably not the best to explain it as I am no experience with Vaganova technique.
So if someone has a informed answer, please share.
Actually this is a very interesting question because the Vaganova style in particular is very young when compare to western Europe. First let me just clarify that the term ‘western’, in ballet is never really used because in western Europe there are many prominent styles originating with different practitioners.
For example, France, in particular Paris has it’s own style. Fast clean foot work coming from the ‘floor to floor’ method, multiple compact beats and generally faster turning, are all trademarks of this style.
Italy also has a very unique style gaining clarity from the work of Cecchetti. Some trade marks of this style are lengthy, stretched, soft classical lines and extreme emphasis put on the use of the upper body.
Denmark, the home of Bournonville. In this style we see emphasis put on the hight of jump and the activeness of the legs useful for when it comes to doing large open beats and having a very lively reactive ‘ballon’ (sense of jump or bounce). We also see more push for big multiple pirouettes in the danish style as well as very minimalist arms and port de bras. We also see with Bournonville a shortening of arms, as if to bring them closer to centre allowing for more compact turning.
The English style is very placed. This style finds clean poses and establishing clean positions, for a ‘photo moment’, as it were, important. The English created there method on showing clean strong classical shapes and linking there shapes with simple transitional movements, making there dancers very good at performing adagio combinations. In English turning we see emphasis placed on the turning position in a pirouette and the preparation for the movement as opposed attempting multiple turns.
Although many people see the Vaganova method of dance as ‘The Russian Style’ and the only method to ever have existed in Russia since the genesis of ballet in the ‘east’, that is just not the case. Today there are three methods of ballet taught in Russia, Vaganova, Moscow, and Novosibirsk. The Vaganova Academy is credited with being 276 years old, which it is. However, this is deceiving. Although the school was founded by Empress ‘Elizabeth of Russia’ 276 years ago, it has changes its name a few times. Agrippina Vaganova did not even start teaching, let alone developing her method until the 1920’s, a mere 9 decades ago.
So to answer the question about how do the styles differ? The answer, well the method created by Agrippina Vaganova is actually mixture of all the styles I mentioned earlier. For years Agrippina actually traveled Europe, by the commission of the ‘new’ government, to create a uniquely Russian and superior form of classical ballet. So Vaganova travelled and took; the Italian arms and ports de bras, the Bournonville power, spring and attack, the french crisp, fast, clean leg/foot work and the English adage, and as a result created something “uniquely and superiorly russian”.
Haha hope that this answers the question. I guess that doing the ballet history class with the russians really pays off =) Sorry that the font is a little messed up I copied the word Cecchetti from google search coz I didn’t know how to write it in english.