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Written by: Jennifer Louw

What is the Cecchetti Method?

The Cecchetti Method is a system of training in Classical Ballet designed strictly upon the laws of anatomy, and stresses two essential ingredients – technical and artistic development in a dancer and a sensitive, musical response to all movements.

Cecchetti devised a balanced programme of study which ensures that every movement and step of repertoire required by the Dancer is covered.

These and other timeless Cecchetti Principles of Classical Dance are contained in The Method which imbues the dancer with Simplicity of Style, Purity of Line and a notable Musicality and Theatricality.

Maestro Enrico Cecchetti

Enrico Cecchetti was born on 21 June 1850 in a dressing room of the Tordinona Theatre in Rome, Italy. He was the son of dancing parents and is famed as a brilliant virtuoso dancer, an expert mime artist and the greatest teacher of his time – best known for his contributions to the Classical Technique.

During a dancing career spanning more than 30 years, Enrico Cecchetti performed extensively in countries such as the United Sates, England, Denmark, Norway, Germany and Russia. He created the dual roles of Carabosse and the Bluebird in “The Sleeping Beauty” and was considered to have revolutionised the image of the male dancer in Russian in the last two decades of the nineteenth century.

In 1887 Cecchetti was appointed second ballet master of the Imperial Russian Ballet and in 1892 assumed the position of teacher of the Imperial School of Dancing in St Petersburg. He became ballet master of the Imperial Dance School, Warsaw in 1902 and thereafter joined Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes as teacher and ballet master.

The Maestro’s influence was significant and he worked with renowned dancers and choreographers such as Mathilda Kchessinska, Olga Preobrajenska, Anna Pavlova (whom he taught privately from 1907 to 1910), Tamara Karsavina, Michael Fokine, Adolf Bohm, George Balanchine, Vaslav Nijinsky and Leonide Massine.

In 1918 Cecchetti began to tire of travel and together with his wife established a school in London at 160 Shaftesbury Avenue. His training was fundamental to the works of Ninette de Valois, Marie Rambert, Frederick Ashton and Anthony Tudor and still is recognisable in works by David Bintley and other contemporary ballet choreographers. Alicia Markova was one of his many students.

Cecchetti returned to Italy in 1925, at the request of the conductor Arturo Toscanini, and directed the ballet school of La Scala Theatre in Milan where he had danced fifty-five years earlier. Here he taught Serge Lifar who would become a leading figure in the evolution of modern French ballet.

Enrico Cecchetti died in harness, teaching at La Scala, Milan, in his native Italy in 1928 – leaving his legacy to the Dance – his method of training.

The Cecchetti method was codified and published in 1922.

To train in the Cecchetti Method...

“is to carry a torch which has been burning for over a century. A tradition of lyrical beauty, classical line, musicality, finesse, attention to detail, warmth of spirit and the flame of dance – all the attributes necessary to make a good dancer. Add to this, intelligence and individuality, the qualities that make Maestro Cecchetti’s exercises come alive and one has the makings of fireworks with which to spellbind the audience. And what is a professional dancer’s task, but to carry the audience into a world of fantasy and magic”

Ann Wixley (Former Principal CAPAB Ballet Cape Town, State Theatre Ballet Pretoria and winner of the Prix de Lausanne, Switzerland)

To Dance...

“Dance training – whether for the purpose of preparing the profession or for the sheer joy of organised movement – has an unprecedented place in our society. Stimulated by music, dance is a language whose words are movements of the body in time and space. The traditional classical Ballet evolved from the Romantic Movement with Maestro Cecchetti at the centre of its pedagogical development. The Cecchetti style, in its school of bravura, virtuosity and strength, offers a musicality which is so important in the dynamics of Ballet Technique. With all the dedicated teachers around the country, I can only foresee a bright future for the Cecchetti Society of Southern Africa”

Patron of The Cecchetti Society of Southern Africa Eduard Greyling

Eduard Greyling’s illustrious career as an artist was born in a Cecchetti Ballet Studio. He rose to become a foremost performer on South African stages and will long be remembered for his charisma and contribution to South African Ballet – most notably in the CAPAB Ballet Company in Cape Town.

Registered Cecchetti teachers are located in all provinces.

The Cecchetti Society of Southern Africa is a Founding Member of Cecchetti International Classical Ballet and is committed to improving the professional profile of the Cecchetti Society and the Cecchetti method of training.

For more information visit


Alexandra Potgieter, winner of the Adjudicators’ Choice Award at the International Competition, Canada in 2008.

Guest teachers at the recent Cecchetti Summer School.


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