A Ballet Dynasty: The Life of Enrico Cecchetti

By Livia Brillarelli

1850-1928

Born in the dressing room of the Teatro Tordinona in Rome, Italy. Son of Cesare choreographer, dancer and mime, and Serafina, also a talented dancer, Enrico was one of the greatest teachers in ballet history. He studied with Lepri in Florence, who himself had studied under Blasis. His first stage performance was at the age of five; at seven he toured the United States of America dancing with his family.

1870

Debut in Milan, then toured Europe as premier danseur

1887

Debut in St. Petersburg where his brilliant technique amazed the Russians

1890

Appointed to second ballet master to the Imperial Theatres

1892

Became instructor at the Imperial School. He created the roles of Bluebird and Carabosse in Sleeping Beauty, a testimony of his virtuosity and mimetic gifts. While at the Maryinsky Theatre he created some choreography, notably refurbishing Coppélia in 1894, but his chief claim to fame lies in his extraordinary gifts as a teacher.

“While it is sufficient proof of his eminence to state that he played a considerable part in the forming of Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina and Vaslav Nijinsky, it may be said that there are very few dancers of international reputation” (of that generation) … “who do not owe something or a great deal to his training.”

1902

Ballet master at the Imperial School, Warsaw

1905

Returned to Italy, then to Russia where he opened a private school in St. Petersburg and devoted much time to private work with Pavlova.

1909

He became the official teacher for Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes and created roles with that company, notably the Charlatan in Petruschka and the Astrologer in Coq d’Or

1918

He and his wife Giuseppina opened a school in London, England where his pupils included nearly every famous dancer of the time

1922

Cecchetti and his wife became respectively, Chairman and Vice Chairman of the newly founded Cecchetti Society

1923

The Cecchettis returned to Italy

1925

He became ballet master at La Scala, Milan and continuing to give occasional classes to the Diaghilev Ballet, celebrating his golden jubilee on the stage performing the role of Carabosse and made his last stage performance in 1926 as the Charlatan in Petrushka in Milan. He continued teaching in Milan until his death in 1928.