Cavalier Enrico Cecchetti
The moment Enrico Cecchetti was born he was destined to live the life of a dancer. The day was June 21, 1850 in the dressing room at the Tordinona Theater in Rome, Italy. His parents, Cesare Cecchetti and Serafina Casagli, were both highly regarded dancers, and introduced Enrico to the stage as an infant in his father's arms. He appeared in his first ballet, The Gambler, at age five, and by age seven, was partnering his older sister, Pia. In 1857, Cecchetti toured the United States with his parents, sister, and brothers, Giuseppe and Luigi. Despite later attempts to persuade a career for their son in business or law, he finally convinced his parents to allow him to continue the study of dance.
The teaching most influential in Cecchetti's training was that of Carlo Blasis. Even though he did not study directly with Blasis, all of his teachers had been pupils of this great teacher. He first studied with his father, but as a teenager, was sent to study with Giovanni Lepri. Other teachers included Cesare Coppini, Caterina Baretta, and Filippo Taglioni.
At age twenty, Cecchetti made a very successful debut at La Scala in Milan, Italy. His display of great technical feats, especially pirouettes, caused a sensation that kept him in demand throughout Europe for nearly twenty years. He received rave reviews everywhere he performed, and became known as "the first dancer of the world".
Soon his talents took him to Russia in 1887 where he was hired by the Imperial Ballet as principal dancer at the Maryinski Theater, and assistant ballet master to Marius Petipa. Here he created both the virtuoso role of the Bluebird and the mime role of Carabosse in Petipa's The Sleeping Beauty. Over a period of fifteen years, Cecchetti earned great respect as a dancer, teacher, and choreographer, and had a tremendous influence on the development of ballet technique in Russia.
After a disagreement with the czar over citizenship, Cecchetti moved to Warsaw, Poland. From 1902-1905, he was the director of the Imperial Ballet Academy in Warsaw. The war with Japan brought him back to his homeland briefly. He then returned to Russia to become the private teacher of the soon to be famous ballerina, Anna Pavlova.
From 1907-1909, he taught Anna Pavlova exclusively. No sooner did he returned to teaching classes at his private school when Serge Diaghilev arranged to hire him as ballet master and mime artist for his touring Ballets Russes. He toured with Diaghilev's company until 1918, when he decided to retire to a more permanent home. It was then he moved to London where he opened an extremely popular private school. Failing health and a longing for the warm climate of his beloved Italy caused Cecchetti to make one last move to Turin in 1923. At age seventy-five, there was still no stopping. He was invited to continue his teaching career as ballet master at La Scala Theater. This was a lifelong dream for Cecchetti, and an invitation he could not refuse.
On November 13, 1928, Enrico Cecchetti collapsed while correcting a student in class. He passed away the next morning. His great influence will continue through the legacy of his Method. The list of his pupils reads like a dancer's hall of fame: Luba Egorova, Anna Pavlova, Agrippina Vaganova, Olga Preobrajenska, Tamara Karsavina, Alexander Gorsky, Nicolai Legat, Mikhail Fokine, Vaslav Nijinsky, Leonide Massine, Adolph Bolm, Ninette de Valois, Alexandra Danilova, Alicia Markova, Anton Dolin, Serge Lifar, Vincenzo Celli, Margaret Craske, Marie Rambert, Stanislas Idzikowski, Luigi Albertieri, and many others.
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