History of Cecchetti
Cecchetti (pictured right) was born in Italy in 1850. At the height of his career as a dancer he migrated to St Petersburg, where he joined the Imperial Russian Ballet and created the virtuoso role of The Bluebird and the mime role of Carabosse in the premiere of The Sleeping Beauty in 1890. Cecchetti also taught the Class of Perfection in the school and worked with many Mariinsky dancers, including Pavlova, Karsavina and Nijinsky. In 1909 he joined Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes as a teacher and mime artist and travelled with the company to France and England. His pupils included Alicia Markova, Ninette de Valois, Marie Rambert and Leonide Massine. In 1918 he opened a school of dancing in London, at 160 Shaftesbury Avenue. Cecchetti trained under Lepri, a pupil of the great Carlo Blasis who had codified the technique of classical ballet in 1820. Blasis’ ideas were developed further by Cecchetti who grouped the vocabulary into six sets of exercises, one for each day of the week. This work was recorded and published in 1922 by Cyril Beaumont, assisted by Stanislas Idzikowski and Enrico Cecchetti himself. Further volumes were compiled by Margaret Craske and Derra de Moroda. In 1923 he returned to Italy and accepted the post of Director of the Ballet School in La Scala, Milan. He died there in 1928.
Cecchetti’s influence on British ballet has been far reaching. Ninette de Valois and Marie Rambert, the two architects of 20th century British ballet, both studied extensively with Cecchetti. Rambert called him “the greatest ballet-master of his time” and Ninette de Valois wrote in her memoir “Maestro Cecchetti left a great imprint on the English School and was my exclusive teacher for four years. The important aspects of his teaching will remain a part of the academic tradition of our English ballet”. When Cecchetti retired from his studio in London his work was handed down through his disciple, Margaret Craske, to a whole generation of British artists. Many of these were to spread his method abroad where it has become an integral part of the work of many major companies and schools all over the world. Most notable amongst Rambert and Craske’s many famous pupils, and the most important link through them to Cecchetti, was Sir Frederick Ashton. He wrote: “If I had my way, I would always insist that all dancers should daily do the wonderful Cecchetti port de bras, especially beginners. It inculcates a wonderful feeling for line and correct positioning and the use of head movement and épaulement, which, if correctly absorbed, will be of incalculable use throughout a dancer’s career”.
It was at the instigation of Cyril Beaumont (pictured right), writer, ballet historian and critic, that the Cecchetti Society was founded in 1922, to preserve and promote the work of ‘the Maestro’. The first committee comprised such luminaries as Cyril Beaumont, Margaret Craske, Jane Forrester, Molly Lake, Derra de Moroda, Marie Rambert and Ninette de Valois. Maestro Cecchetti was President and Madame Cecchetti was Vice President. In 1923 when Cecchetti moved back to Italy, Cyril Beaumont was elected Chair of the Cecchetti Society, a post he held until his death in 1976. In 1924 the Cecchetti Society was incorporated with the 'Imperial Society of Dance Teachers' (now, the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing). Following Cyril Beaumont, the position of Chair has been held by: Diana Barker 1976–1990; Mary Jane Duckworth 1990–1999; Linda Pilkington 1999–2005; Elisabeth Swan 2005–2014; Catherine Hutchon 2014–2019.