In 1866 she was named the best student of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatre School.
During the mid- to late 19th century, Russian ballet was dominated by foreign artists, though during the late 1860s through the early 1880s the theatre administration encouraged the promotion of native talent. Vazem – a terre-à-terre virtuosa – climbed the ranks of the Imperial Ballet to become one of the company's most celebrated dancers. Despite being a benefit performance for Vazem, with tickets being more expensive than for the opera, the first performance of La Bayadère played to a full house. At the end of the performance the audience applauded for more than half an hour. Reviews were uniformly complimentary although they did register complaints of Petipa's license in dealing with historical facts. They also dwelt on the unavoidable mishaps that befall most first performances. For example, in the Kingdom of the Shades scene, the appearance of a magic palace was mistimed and delayed until after Nikiya had turned to face it.