Enrico Cecchetti


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(b Rome, 21 Jun. 1850; d Milan, 13 Nov. 1928)

Italian dancer, choreographer, and ballet master. A renowned mime artist and one of the greatest teachers in the history of ballet, whose system of teaching, known as the Cecchetti method, is still used in schools around the world. He was born—in a theatre dressing-room—the son of two dancers and made his debut while only 5 years old in Genoa. He studied with Blasis' pupil Giovanni Lepri in Florence and made his La Scala debut in 1870 in Gods from Valhalla. He guested throughout Europe while still a dancer at La Scala (where he had been promoted to principal in 1885) and made his debut at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg in 1887 in Ivanov's The Tulip of Haarlem. A brilliant technician, he so impressed the Russians that he was appointed principal dancer and second ballet master to the Imperial Theatres. For a decade, from 1892, he taught at the school of the Imperial Theatres, where his pupils included Pavlova, Vaganova, Preobrajenska, Karsavina, Lopokova, Gorsky, Legat, Fokine, and Nijinsky. In 1902 he left to teach in Warsaw but returned to St Petersburg in 1906 to open a private school. In 1909 he was hired by Diaghilev as ballet master and character dancer for his new Ballets Russes company. Cecchetti remained with Diaghilev until 1918, creating several roles in ballets by Fokine and Massine. In 1918 he and his wife Giuseppina opened a ballet school in London, where his students included Rambert, de Valois, and Markova. He also ran the La Scala Ballet School in Milan (1925–8). In 1922 in London the Cecchetti Society was formed to preserve his system of teaching, and in 1924 it was incorporated into the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. Among the roles he created were Carabosse and Blue Bird in Sleeping Beauty (1890), the Chief Eunuch in Scheherazade (1910), the Old Showman in Petrushka (1911), the Astrologer in Le Coq d'or (1914), the Shopkeeper in La Boutique fantasque (1919) and the Doctor in Pulcinella (1920). He made his last stage appearance in Milan in 1926, dancing the Old Showman. Although he choreographed some ballets, none have survived. He collaborated with Cyril Beaumont and Idzikowski on A Manual of the Theory and Practice of Classical Theatrical Dancing: Cecchetti Method, published in London in 1922.

Subjects: Dance.

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