Enrico Cecchetti, St. Petersburg, circa 1900
June 21, 1850|
|Died||November 13, 1928
Enrico Cecchetti (Italian pronunciation: [enˈriko tʃekˈketti]; 21 June 1850, Rome – 13 November 1928, Milan) was an Italian ballet dancer, mime, and founder of the Cecchetti method. The son of two dancers from Civitanova Marche, he was born in the costuming room of the Teatro Tordinona in Rome. After an illustrious career as a dancer in Europe, he went to dance for the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he further honed his skills. Cecchetti was praised for his agility and strength in his performances, as well as his technical abilities in dance. By 1888, he was widely accepted as the greatest ballet virtuoso in the world.
After an esteemed career in Russia, originating such roles as both the Bluebird and Carabosse in Petipa's masterpiece, The Sleeping Beauty, he turned to teaching. Some of his students included other notable dancers of the Imperial Ballet, such as: Anna Pavlova, Léonide Massine, and Vaslav Nijinsky. He also restaged many ballets, including Petipa's definitive version of Coppélia in 1894, from which nearly all modern versions of the work are based. (This version was notated in the early 20th century, and is today part of the Sergeyev Collection). While teaching a class, Cecchetti collapsed and he died the following day, November 13, 1928.
Changes to the choreography of the male variations featured in the works of the Imperial Ballet's repertory. In 1890, Cecchetti performed in the ground-breaking production of The Sleeping Beauty, where his performance as the Bluebird caused a sensation in the audience at the Mariinsky Theatre. The choreography of the Bluebird has challenged male dancers even to the present day.
Cecchetti left the Imperial ballet in 1902 to accept the directorship of the Imperial Ballet School in Warsaw, Poland, then part of the Russian Empire. His farewell gala at the Mariinsky Theatre featured all of the leading ballerinas of the day, many of whom were his students. In order to have everyone pay him homage, the Paquita Grand pas classique was performed, with the inclusion of the favorite solos of all of the participating ballerinas. This led to the tradition of including a long suite of variations for several ballerinas.
In 1887 Cecchetti performed in St. Petersburg where Ivan Vsevolozhsky, the director of the Mariinsky Theatre saw him perform. He was so impressed with Cecchetti that he immediately hired Cecchetti as a principal dancer for the theatre. This was extremely rare at the time because normally dancers would be asked to join a company on a lower level.
With the introduction of the pointe shoe in the early 19th century, ballet was dominated by female performers using pointe technique.  In many ways male technique had been reduced to the role of an actor whose responsibilities as a dancer were relegated to a servant who partnered the ballerina. Cecchetti immediately began transforming the traditionally conservative roles for the male dancer, making drastic changes to the choreography of the male variations featured in the works of the Imperial Ballet's repertory. In 1890, Cecchetti performed in the ground-breaking production of The Sleeping Beauty, where his performance as the Bluebird caused a sensation in the auditorium of the Mariinsky Theatre. The choreography of the Bluebird has challenged male dancers even to the present day.
Cecchetti left the Imperial ballet in 1902 to accept the directorship of the Imperial Ballet School in Warsaw, Poland. His farewell gala at the Mariinsky Theatre featured all of the leading ballerinas of the day, many of whom were his students. In order to have everyone pay him homage, the Paquita Grand pas classique was performed with the inclusion of the favorite solos of all of the participating ballerinas. This led to the tradition of including a long suite of variations for several ballerinas.
Cecchetti taught at the Imperial School in St. Petersburg from 1887 — 1902, and then the Warsaw State School in Poland from 1902 — 1905. Returning to St. Petersburg in 1905, he established a school, the Cecchetti Academy. From 1907-1909, he coached Anna Pavlova exclusively until dancers from the Maryinsky pleaded with him to open his classes to them again. When Sergei Diaghilev wanted his company the Ballets Russes to tour, the dancers refused because they would miss their daily classes with Cecchetti. An astute businessman, in 1910 Diaghilev hired Cecchetti for the dual roles of ballet master and mime. Cecchetti performed many mime roles which were created expressly for him by choreographers of the Ballets Russes.
Cecchetti's participation in Diaghilev's Ballets Russes was very important. He was the link between the past and the present, contributing to the birth of modern classical ballet while maintaining the technical level of the dancers. He enabled them to cope with the physical and dramatic challenges of the company's demanding choreographers. In addition to Cecchetti and the dancers, many other artists worked with the Diaghilev Ballets Russes: painters, set and costume designers Léon Bakst, Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and Henri Matisse; composers Claude Debussy, Manuel De Falla, Sergei Prokofiev, Maurice Ravel, and Igor Stravinsky. The Ballets Russes toured through Europe, the United States, South America, and Australia.
Having had enough of life on the road, Cecchetti settled in London, England where he opened a dance school in 1918. As he was considered the technical marvel of the ballet world, it was said that no one could become a finished ballet dancer without passing through Cecchetti's hands.
In the tradition of classical ballet, techniques and parts are taught directly, person to person. The technique was passed on directly to Enrico Cecchetti, as he was taught by Giovanni Lepri, who in turn was taught by Carlo Blasis and the line can be traced back to Beauchamp the first ballet master at the court of Louis X1V. So, too, the Cecchetti method has been passed on directly by his former pupils such as Laura Wilson.
In 1923, Cecchetti returned to Italy to retire. He was invited by Arturo Toscanini to resume his teaching career at La Scala, which had been his lifelong dream. While teaching a class, Cecchetti collapsed and was taken home, where he died the following day, November 13, 1928.
Cecchetti created a ballet technique that is now known as the Cecchetti method. This technique is popular with past and present ballet teachers, remaining fresh and contemporary. After Cecchetti's death, Cyril Beaumont, Stanislas Idzikowsky, Margaret Craske and Derra de Moroda decided to codify Cecchetti's method so it could continue to be used by ballet teachers to perfect the technique of ballet dancers.   Under the Cecchetti Method, dancers follow strict routines and daily exercises to develop all-around skills to support learning and performance of every kind of dance. This training method is used by many ballet companies around the world, including The National Ballet of Canada and Mont Albert Ballet School in Melbourne, Australia.
- Barringer, Janice (2007-01-01). "Cecchetti's choices. (Technique) Enrico Cecchetti". Dance Magazine (Macfadden Performing Arts Media LLC). Retrieved 2008-06-03.
- Wiley, Roland John (1990). A Century of Russian Ballet. New York: Oxford Clarendon Press. p. 375.
- Brillarelli, Livia (1995). Cecchetti A Ballet Dynasty. Toronto: Dance Collection Danse Educational Publications. p. 31.
- Bland, Alexander; Percival, John (1984). Men Dancing. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.
- Cass, Joan (1993). Dancing Through History. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall Inc. p. 114.
- Brillarelli pg 47
- Poesio pg 80
- Brillarelli pg 59
- Enrico Cecchetti at www.Cecchettiusa.org