Grade I Students

Libby Bergeon

Julia Halatsis

Sarah Gasko

Lexi Radjewski

Grade II Students

Elizabeth Kulman

Andrew Pankiewicz

 

Grade III Students

Holly Colombo

Hannah Kulman

Ashley Kazatko

Katie Gerlach

History of Cecchetti

 

ENRICO CECCHETTI, the Student

Enrico Cecchetti was born in a dressing room of a theatre in Rome on the 21st of June, 1850. Young Enrico's stage debut occurred as an infant in his father's arms. Although his parents wanted for him a career in business or law, Enrico was determined to be a dancer and finally convinced his parents of his great desire and dedication. Trained in the rudiments of ballet by his father, Enrico was sent for further training to Giovanni Lepri who prepared accomplished dancers. He also studied with two more of his father's colleagues, Cesare Coppini, who taught at the prestigious La Scala in Milan, and Filippo Taglioni, father of the celebrated ballerina, Marie Taglioni. All of Cecchetti's teachers had been trained by Carlo Blasis. This early training created a background for Enrico Cecchetti's method of teaching following the lines of Blasis' own theory. Blasis had codified his teaching methods in the book Traite Elementaire, Technique et Practise de Art de la Danse, published in 1820.


 ENRICO CECCHETTI, the Professional Dancer


 Cecchetti began touring Europe in his late teens, and at age 20 had his debut on the stage of La Scala in Milan. He was an instant success! Throughout his career, he received rave reviews and accolades and was considered the finest male dancer of his time. At the height of his career, he migrated to St. Petersburg. While performing in Russia, he captivated his audiences with brilliant feats of batterie, amazing leaps, and multiple pirouettes. He was hired to perform as Premier Danseur, to be Maitre de Ballet with the Maryinsky Ballet and to teach at the Imperial Ballet School (1887-1902). So prodigious was his technique and his gifts for mime that he created and performed the virtuoso role of the Blue Bird and the mime role of Carabosse in the premiere of Petipa's The Sleeping Beauty in 1890.

MAESTRO CECCHETTI, the Teacher

Cecchetti taught at the Imperial School in St. Petersburg from 1887-1902, and from 1902-1905 he taught in Poland at the Warsaw State School. Returning to St. Petersburg in 1905, he established a school there. From 1907-1909, he taught Anna Pavlova exclusively until dancers from the Maryinsky pleaded with him to open his classes to them again. When Diaghilev wanted his company, the Ballets Russes, to tour, the dancers refused because they would miss their daily classes with Cecchetti. An astute businessman, Diaghilev hired Enrico 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 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. In addition to Cecchetti and the dancers, many other artists worked with the Diaghilev Ballets Russes: painters, set and costume designers Bakst, Picasso, Cocteau, and Matisse; composers Debussy, De Falla, Prokofiev, Ravel, and Stravinksy. The Ballets Russes toured through Europe, the United States, South America, and Australia. Tired of touring, Cecchetti settled in London, England where he opened a school to which dancers flocked. Considered the technical lodestar of the ballet world, it was said that no one could become a finished ballet dancer without passing through Cecchetti's hands. In 1923, he returned to Italy to retire but was invited by Arturo Toscanini to resume his teaching career at La Scala, his lifelong dream. While teaching a class, Cecchetti collapsed and was taken home where he died the following day, November 13, 1928.

TRADITION CONTINUES, Cecchetti's Legacy

Maestro Enrico Cecchetti will always be remembered through the teaching method he developed which expanded upon the principles set forth by Carlo Blasis. He learned from the masters; he assimilated and applied the theories they taught. 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. Cyril Beaumont, a world renowned dance historian and friend of Cecchetti said, "What impressed me most about the Cecchetti method of teaching was the way in which each exercise played a definite and planned part in the student's technical development. There is nothing haphazard about the system, nothing which depended on the teacher's mood of the moment. There is a definite plan to daily classes." The method devised by Maestro Cecchetti was recorded and published in 1922 by Cyril Beaumont with the help of Idzikowski and Cecchetti, himself. The Manual of Theory and Practice of Classical Theatrical Dancing (Cecchetti Method) is an excellent source of information on technique, stance, positions of arms, feet, legs, hands, body, head, port de bras, adages, etc. Margaret Craske and Fridericka Derra de Moroda later collaborated with Cyril Beaumont in recording many allegro enchainements and pirouettes.  
Having finished the manual on the Cecchetti Method, Beaumont decided it would be beneficial to bring together those dancers in London who had studied with Cecchetti. From this group was founded the Cecchetti Society in 1922. Its earliest members were Cyril Beaumont, Margaret Craske, Fridericka. Derra de Moroda, Molly Lake, Jane Forrestier, Dame Marie Rambert, and Dame Ninette de Valois. Cecchetti and his wife were the first president and vice president of the Cecchetti Society. From this Society, branches have developed in all parts of the world. 
The legacy of the Cecchetti teachings has continued to grow. Among the many dancers influenced by Cecchetti were: Anna Pavlova; Vaslav Nijinksy; Tamara Karsavina; Dame Ninette de Valois and Dame Marie Rambert (Royal Ballet of England and Ballet Rambert, respectively); Gisella Caccialanza (New York City Ballet and San Francisco Ballet); Vincenzo Celli, Luigi Albertieri, Dame Alicia Markova, and Margaret Craske (Metropolitan Opera Ballet); Luba Egorova and Olga Preobrajenska (who taught in Paris); Serge Lifar (Paris Opera Ballet); Betty Oliphant (National Ballet of Canada); Molly Lake (Ankara Ballet of Turkey); Adolf Bolin (San Francisco Opera Ballet and Chicago Lyrical Ballet); Mikhail Mordkin (American Ballet Theatre); George Balanchine (New York City Ballet); Dame Peggy Van Praagh (Australian Ballet); Dulcie Howes (University of Cape Town, South Africa, also known as C.A.P.A.B. Ballet Co.). The list is endless. The Cecchetti Council of America, Inc is an organization with the goal of perpetuating the Cecchetti Method through seminars, conferences, festivals, examinations, and by providing guidelines and standards for achievement.

(Information provided by Livia Brillarelli, Dr. Kathleen Tidwell, Shiela Darby, and Rose Marie Floyd)

 

About The Cecchetti Council of America
(Summary)

The Cecchetti Council of America is an organization dedicated to maintaining the standards and method of ballet training established by Cav. Enrico Cecchetti. The organization uses his teaching and writings in a sequence of grades (Primary I-III, Grades I-VII and Diploma), carefully measured as to degree of difficulty and physical development, and provides a system of accredited examinations to test the student's proficiency within those grades.
 

The Cecchetti Method

What is the Cecchetti Method of training? It is a rigorous system drawn up with careful regard for the laws of anatomy, and it is designed to endow the human body with all those qualities essential to the dancer...balance, poise, strength, elevation, elasticity, "ballon" and so forth.
These qualities are naturally not the monopoly of the Cecchetti Method; they are the ideal of every school of training. But the Cecchetti Method differs from those other schools in the endeavor to reduce the dancer's training to an exact science, by imposing a formula evolved over years of preparing boys and girls of many nationalities to become dancers, to knead and shape their bodies to bear the strains and trails of public appearance and to fit their muscles and tendons and nerves to respond readily to whatever steps and movements might be required of them by the choreographer.
The imposition of a spartan unalterable regimen, according to which every day in the working week has its own particular set exercises, is an essential part of the system. This ensures that different types of steps are infallibly practiced in a planned sequence, stretching and contracting each set of muscles in turn and to a carefully calculated degree. Each exercise is executed to the left as well as to the right, beginning one side one week, and the other the next. The cumulative effect of such exercises carried out in the prescribed manner is definite.
Another important feature of the Cecchetti Method is that the student is taught to think of the movement of the foot, leg, arm, and head, not as something apart, but in its relation to the whole body, which develops a definite feeling for line. Again Cecchetti laid down that it is more important to execute and exercise correctly once, than to do it a dozen times carelessly. Quality therefore rather than quantity is the guiding rule. The Cecchetti Method is classic in its purity and clear-cut style; it is classic in its strenuous opposition to all extravagance and fussiness of movement; it is classic in its insistence on the importance of line.
The complete Cecchetti Method includes a very full vocabulary of movement, including nearly forty "adages", composed by Ceccchetti himself for the development and maintenance of balance and poise in every conceivable position and in every type of movement, the body being supported on either leg. The eight "Ports de Bras", or exercises to develop the graceful movement and coordination of the arms, are generally admitted to be unsurpassed.
The prime purpose of the Cecchetti Method is that the student shall not learn to dance by trying to imitate the movements executed by his teacher as a model for him to follow, but shall learn to dance by studying and imbibing the basic principles which govern the art; in short, to grow and develop from within out, to become completely self-reliant.
One final point; although Cecchetti insisted upon strict adherence to his program of daily practice, he invariably advocated that the lesson of the day should be followed by studying unseen steps composed by the teacher in order to develop the student's powers in "quick study" and his ability to assimilate new steps and new "enchantments".
There have been critics who declare that there is "no method". The fallacy of such statement is, I submit, self-evident.
It is argued that to do a certain set of exercises on each day of the week is soul-destroying, and that it is essential to keep the student interested. But is it not rather a question of whether the student attends class in order to amuse himself or be entertained by the teacher, or whether he is taking classes for the sole purpose of learning his job? The most celebrated musicians do not disdain to practice daily certain scales and exercises which they have practiced thousands of times before. They do not do this for amusement, but to make their fingers supple and sensitive, to increase their extension, and to develop their powers of touch. There is, unfortunately, no royal road to becoming a dancer, and those who pretend to be able to turn out a finished dancer in a few months by what is euphemiously termed "intensive training" may be dismissed as bogus teachers trading on the credulity of parents. The dancers is truly born of toil, tear and sweat.
It has been well said by that great critic the late Andre Levinson, that the dancer is both violin and violinist. The violinist cannot play without his violin, and there is a considerable difference in playing on a an instrument purchased for $20.00, and a Stradivarius. The dancer cannot dance until he has made his body into an appropriate and sensitive instrument. Cecchetti's series of difficult "adages" are designed for that very purpose. Expressiveness is the touchstone of every art, and this is especially true of the art of ballet, and not until a sequence of movements is known by heart can the dancer invest those movements and steps with expression and learn the thousand and one graduations of "color" which can be accorded to them.
I believe the Cecchetti system to be infallible and physicians have testified to the soundness of it anatomical principles. Given a suitable body, it will, in the course of a few years, change the neophyte into a skilled dancer endowed with all of the desirable qualities I have already cited, provided its principles are followed with care and attention. But, as in all walks of education, teachers vary. It is not enough to have the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge, one must know how to impart it and possess the experience and taste to adapt it when the student falls short of the required standard of physique.
In proof of the values of the Cecchetti Method, I could cite the names of many prominent dancers who attended his classes and those of certain of his successors and have admitted the benefit they derived from his teaching. But this is crystallized in the charming tribute paid by Anna Pavlova to her old teacher:

"The feeling of great gratitude I have for what you have taught me, is blended with my love and respect for your personality."
"When you finished your brilliant career as the first dancer of your day, you devoted your life to the difficult art of teaching others; with what proud satisfaction you can now look round, for in every part of the world nearly all who have made a name for themselves in choreography at the present time have passed through your hands. If our goddess, Terpsichore, is still in our midst, you, by right, are her favored High Priest."

I will conclude with one more reference. It is generally admitted that the finest company of dancers ever seen in Western Europe was that formed by the late Serge Diaghileff, whose refined taste and innate artistry directed the whole of its brilliant existence from 1909 to 1929. It was to Cecchetti that Diaghileff entrusted the responsible task of maintaining the technical efficiency of that company which at one time numbered as many as a hundred dancers, including some of the greatest artists of the age.
Again, when Diaghileff thought he had found a potential genius in a youth names Leonide Massine, it was to Cecchetti that he entrusted his training, just as, a few years later, he confided another boy, Serge Lifar, to his care. Our own Frederick Ashton learned to dance from Massine and Marie Rambert; the latter also taught Anthony Tudor - and so I could reel off name after name of dancer and choreographer of the art of ballet. But the few examples I have given as surely sufficient proof of the value of that splendid legacy, known as the Cecchetti Method, which my colleagues and I have sought to preserve and propagate for the service of dancers everywhere.
The Cecchetti Method
Written by Cyril W. Beaumont

More information at www.cecchetti.org

 

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