Enrico Cecchetti (21 June 1850 in Rome – 13 November 1928 in Milan) was an Italian balletdancer, mime, and founder of the Cecchetti method. The son of two dancers from Civitanova Marche, he was born in the costuming room of the Teatro Tordinona in Rome. After an illustrious career as a dancer in Europe, he went to dance for the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he further honed his skills. Cecchetti was praised for his agility and strength in his performances, as well as his technical abilities in dance. By 1888, he was widely accepted as the greatest ballet virtuoso in the world.
After an esteemed career in Russia, originating such roles as both the Bluebird and Carabosse in Petipa's masterpiece, The Sleeping Beauty, he turned to teaching. Some of his students included other notable dancers of the Imperial Ballet, such as: Anna Pavlova, Léonide Massine, and Vaslav Nijinsky. While in London in 1920, he provided instruction to the American ballerina Ruth Page. He also restaged many ballets, including Petipa's definitive version of Coppélia in 1894, from which nearly all modern versions of the work are based. (This version was notated in the early 20th century, and is today part of the Sergeyev Collection). While teaching a class, Cecchetti collapsed and he died the following day, 13 November 1928.
Changes to the choreography of the male variations featured in the works of the Imperial Ballet's repertory. In 1890, Cecchetti performed in the ground-breaking production of The Sleeping Beauty, where his performance as the Bluebird caused a sensation in the audience at the Mariinsky Theatre. The choreography of the Bluebird has challenged male dancers even to the present day.
Cecchetti left the Imperial ballet in 1902 to accept the directorship of the Imperial Ballet School in Warsaw, Poland, then part of the Russian Empire. His farewell gala at the Mariinsky Theatre featured all of the leading ballerinas of the day, many of whom were his students. In order to have everyone pay him homage, the Paquita Grand pas classique was performed, with the inclusion of the favorite solos of all of the participating ballerinas. This led to the tradition of including a long suite of variations for several ballerinas.
In 1919 Cecchetti performed at the inaugural performance of the ballet, La Boutique fantasque, in London, appearing in the role of the shopkeeper.
Cecchetti created a ballet technique that is now known as the Cecchetti method. This technique is popular with past and present ballet teachers, remaining fresh and contemporary. After Cecchetti's death, Cyril Beaumont, Stanislas Idzikowsky, Margaret Craske and Derra de Moroda decided to codify Cecchetti's method so it could continue to be used by ballet teachers to perfect the technique of ballet dancers. Under the Cecchetti Method, dancers follow strict routines and daily exercises to develop all-around skills to support learning and performance of every kind of dance. This training method is used by many ballet companies around the world, including The National Ballet of Canada and Mont Albert Ballet School in Melbourne, Australia.