Enrico Cecchetti: the Man that Revolutionized the World of Ballet “Aim at softness and ease in your performance of a dance. Endeavor that all shall be harmonious. However hard you work at your lessons or at rehearsals, let none of this effort be visible in your performance. There must be no sign of concentration, exertion, or tension. All must be free and natural. For the true art is that which conceals the labor that produced it (Enrico Cecchetti)”. Born in a dressing room of a Roman theatre Enrico Cecchetti was born with a purpose just like everyone else.
His stage performances started as an infant in his father’s arms (Cecchetti USA Classical ballet). It was clear from this moment that he was meant to perform and transform the world of ballet forever. His performance experience would lead to the creation of his own method of ballet, the Cecchetti Method of Ballet. Along with changing the image of the Russian male dancer. Cecchetti was a man with an eventful life, a man with passion, and a man with teachings in a method of ballet that still stands today. Enrico Cecchetti had a very complex life from his childhood to last days, each of which added to his method of ballet.
Enrico Cecchetti was born on the 21st of June, 1850 into a family of dancers. Both of his parents were dancers and he grew up in theatres that his parents performed in, and where he was soon to perform(Cronshaw). While his parents wanted him to receive a good education at the age of seven Enrico Cecchetti claimed that he wanted to become a soldier or a dancer(Cronshaw). After some time, Cecchetti finally persuaded his parents to let him take dance classes, leading to many opportunities for Cecchetti; allowing him to work with many instructors and choreographers which would impact the Cecchetti method of ballet.
Enrico Cecchetti started touring Europe in his late twenties and had his debut on the stage of La Scala in Milan at the age of 20. After his debut in Milan Cecchetti USA states, “He was an instant success! Throughout his career, he received rave reviews and accolades and was considered the finest male dancer of his time. ” This debut set the stage for the rest of his successful life. Not only would Enrico Cecchetti create a legacy as a teacher but also as a dancer. Enrico Cecchetti started his teaching career at the Imperial School in St.
Petersburg from 1887-1902, and then moved to Poland from 1902-1905 at the Warsaw State School. Cecchetti made his way back to St. Petersburg in 1905, where he created his own school where he taught well known dancer Anna Pavlova along with many others desiring his teachings; until dancers from the Maryinsky begged him teach them once again (Cecchetti USA). While Cecchetti was teaching, he never stopped performing he was continuously working with other artists such as Diaghilev; A Russian ballet impresario. “Cecchetti’s presence in the Diaghilev Ballets Russes was very important.
He was the link between the past and the present, contributing to the birth of modern classical ballet (Rizzuto)”. Cecchetti’s life contributed to his teachings, his method would not have been the same without his experience. Many say that Cecchetti’s method stands out because the passion that he had for the art of dance, and this shows through his dancersecchetti taught many well known dancers such as Pavlova, Massine, Nijinska, Nijinsky, Preobrazhenskaya, Lifar, de Valois, Karsavina, Legat, and Vaganova (Barringer). These dancers left their mark on the dance world, and they have Cecchetti and his teachings to thank for this.
Cecchetti had lived through experiences that dancers strive for, and they wanted Cecchetti to help each one of them grow into the star that he was at this time. When Cecchetti met Anna Pavlova,who was already a famous dancer, she begged him to coach her exclusively, which he did for two years (Rizzuto). Pavlova’s performance quality changed from here, the Russian trained dancer; similar to Cecchetti’s roots, was now dancing with more grace and movements that seemed effortless. She went on to perform variations like “The Dying Swan”, which is still being performed by someone at this very moment.
Cecchetti provided each students with similar teachings, providing them with experience that would allow them to grow as artists, and as dancers. Enrico Cecchetti had become cherished by Diaghiley’s dancers. Rizzuto states that, “When Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes dancers refused to go on tour because they would miss their daily classes with Cecchetti, Diaghilev hired him as the company’s ballet master. ” Cecchetti the once Russian trained dancer was changing the identity of ballet through each detail in his method, Russian dancers were inclined to learn Cecchetti’s method.
When asked about Cecchetti’s teachings Byer states that, “It isn’t just technique or legs. It is about the music, the feeling, the style, and the quality that is as important as teaching how to point the foot. ” This method is unlike methods like Russian, which is all about technique. The Cecchetti method of Ballet is effortless, and a piece of art as a method itself. While Cecchetti appreciated technique, it was the performance quality that he cherished. Today, you can tell who is trained in the Cecchetti method of ballet by the technique along with effortless movements creating a piece of art drawing the audience into the performance.
Many methods of ballet have reached their peak or are fading out at this very moment. However, the Cecchetti method is growing and is still standing. Cecchetti made an impact on his students, but also the dance world. From simple things like introducing shorter tutus unlike the once floor length ones, to grand contributions such as his method of ballet that society would look at for ages(Chaganti 3). Cecchetti’s ballet incorporated movement from every part of the body, at no moment is one part of the body not moving.
Both the mind and body is constantly used, the limbs of the dancer telling a story of their own, keeping the audience engaged. There are differences to Cecchetti’s method from others. For example, training in the Cecchetti method avoids injury by adapting to each dancer’s body through the ballet positions to each individual’s body. This applies to the degree of turnout in the hips as well as flexibility in other positions (Cronshaw). The Russian method on the other hand forces correct turnout, which leads to injuries of the knees and hips.
Unlike the Russian method Cecchetti did not see the point in injuring one’s body for something as little as perfect turnout. Although technique played a large factor, Cecchetti was into the quality of one’s movement, seeing arms of strength and grace as if they are dancing all by themselves. Other method want strong and sharp, Cecchetti looks for strength but also grace adding his own touch to the Russian Method he himself had been trained in. This method of ballet has grown very popular since Cecchetti’s death and people can still experience his teachings through instructors who have picked up and studied the Cecchetti Method of Ballet.
In America Cecchetti has left a very large legacy, and there is now what we call The Cecchetti Council of America. Instructors from all around the country interested in the Cecchetti Method of Ballet, can join and use and organized curriculum with multiple grades from beginner to advanced that a dancer can test out of, moving onto the next level. With his legacy on the world Cecchetti USA gives us an insight into what the ballet population has to say about Enrico Cecchetti.
Cecchetti USA states that, “From his own experiences as a dancer and a teacher and from his associations with other dancers, artists, and musicians, he continued to learn, sharing his knowledge and wisdom throughout a career which spanned nearly eight decades. ” Cecchetti was always gaining knowledge through his career and his method kept growing, eventually into what it is today. There is a reason why his method is still standing today. One can not pinpoint why, but it may be because of the values shown throughout, or the way the method is structured. Cecchetti let his mark on the world and it will forever be looked back on.
A man with an eventful life, with passion, and with teachings in a method of ballet that still stands today, Cecchetti has left his legacy. From being born into a theatre, to a successful dancer, and then a teacher; Cecchetti will be remembered for everything he has done and accomplished. He created a method unlike any other, one that stands out. Through his method one can see Cecchetti’s soul as if they were once his best friend. The way to Cecchetti’s heart is through his method of ballet. His method stands and is only growing, he may be gone, but his spirit will always be part of the dance world.
Cecchetti is consider the one to have linked ballet to both the past and the present, and a contributor to the birth of modern classical ballet, the ballet that we see today. Cecchetti wanted to share the world of ballet with everyone and show each and every person the art of his Method of Ballet. Rizzuto states that Enrico Cecchetti was, “A teacher to the very end, Cecchetti collapsed while teaching a class and was taken home; he died the following day at 78. ” Cecchetti never stopped dancing in his lifetime, because of this the Cecchetti Method of Ballet lives on.