ENRICO CECCHETTI was born in a theatre dressing room in Rome in 1850 and later became famous as a dancer, mime, and one of the greatest teachers in ballet history. Both his parents were dancers and he started his training in classical ballet technique with his father. In 1864 he studied in Florence with Giovanni Lepri who, like Cecchetti's father, was a pupil of the famous Carol Blasis.
Cecchetti made his debut at La Scala Milan in 1870, then toured Europe as premier danseur. In 1887 he danced at St Petersberg for the first time. The Russians were so amazed by his brilliant technique that his arrival can be compared to the more recent impact of Rudolf Nureyev on the western world. In 1889 he was appointed premier danseur and instructor at the famous Marinsky Theatre, St. Petersberg where he remained until 1902. The roles of Blue Bird and Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty were created by Cecchetti in Russia. Among his pupils at the time were Anna Pavlova, Olga Preobajenska, Tamara Karsavina, Mathilde Kschessinska, and Vaslav Nijinsky.
The Cecchetti Method of teaching classical ballet includes a very full vocabulary of movement, including exercises composed by Cecchetti himself for the development of strength, balance, poise and elevation. The port de bras, or exercises to develop grace and coordination of the arms are generally admitted to be unsurpassed. One of the foremost features of the Cecchetti Method is the very sound basis of anatomical detail, as set down by Carlo Blasis and proven through the ages. Combined with a close association with the professional dance world, this enables the Cecchetti dancer to adapt easily to modern works.
In Australia, our tribute goes to our own Madam Saronova, herself a pupil of Cecchetti and favoured with his personal certificate. To her we owe the existence of the Cecchetti Society, and the Cecchetti method in Australia and the continuity of a great tradition of dance which is now being carried forward by an ever increasing number of qualified Australian teachers.