Enrico Cecchetti was literally born into dance: he came into this world in a theater dressing room, only to make his stage debut moments later as an infant in his father's arms. In the 78 years to follow, Cecchetti never left... [more]
Enrico Cecchetti was literally born into dance: he came into this world in a theater dressing room, only to make his stage debut moments later as an infant in his father's arms. In the 78 years to follow, Cecchetti never left the dance world.
Despite his great talent and importance, Cecchetti did not gain mainstream recognition for his role in the history of ballet. He worked for most of his adult life behind the scenes as a teacher, without the visibility afforded most choreographers. Cecchetti knew the importance of good direction; he studied with teachers who themselves were the students of great teachers. His father sent him to study with Lepri, who had been a student of the legendary innovator Carlo Blasis; later, Cecchetti studied with Filippo Taglioni.
As a young man, Cecchetti toured Europe with great success. Like many Italian dance virtuosi of his time, he went to Russia to further his career. In 1887, he became a premiere danseur and master teacher at the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg, gaining acclaim as the finest male dancer of his time. Described as "tiny and bounding," Cecchetti set precedents for dance technique -- especially men's technique -- with his weightless leaps and intricate footwork. By demonstrating that male dancers could do more than prop up sylphs, he opened doors for stars like Nijinsky (whom he later trained) and set the standards that would be reinvented by Nureyev and Baryshnikov.
Cecchetti's most famous role was Bluebird in "The Sleeping Beauty", a part created for him by Marius Petipa to showcase his athletic talents. Cecchetti combined technical precision with dramatic presence. He was a superb mime and actor, prompting Petipa to also cast him as Carabosse, the evil fairy who curses Princess Aurora. Cecchetti would play this role long after his jumping days were over.
Upon his retirement from the stage, ballet director Serge Diaghilev retained Cecchetti as ballet master for the Ballet Russes. Cecchetti became such a beloved teacher that Diaghilev could not retain any dancers without him on staff. Cecchetti honed his teaching technique on almost all of Diaghilev's legends, including Serge Lifar, Vaslav Nijinsky, and Anna Pavlova. He coached Anna Pavlova exclusively from 1907 to 1909, until pressure from students led him back to teaching constant classes.
After influencing famous teachers from Agrippina Vaganova to George Balanchine, Maestro Cecchetti opened a school in London. Teachers such as Dame Marie Rambert, Ruth Page, Ninette de Valois, and Margaret Craske would carry his teaching style into their classrooms, scattering Cecchettism across the ballet world. Dance historians Cyril Beaumont, Stanislas Idzikowski, and Craske would codify Cecchetti's method in "The Manual of Theory and Practice of Classical Theatrical Dancing," written in 1922 but still pertinent to contemporary classical training.
The Cecchetti Society, a coterie of teachers dedicated to the propagation of Cecchetti's techniques, makes up for any negligence on the part of dance historians. The society ensures that Cecchetti's method will continue to influence the ballet community. [show less]