To the untrained eye, ballet looks the same across all companies and countries. In reality, however, different companies and schools employ different training techniques, resulting in a wide range of dancers with uniquely developed traits and talents. The Cecchetti method, also known as the Italian method, is widely taught across the world. Cecchetti-trained dancers are particularly known for their strong, fast footwork, clean lines, and centered, well-balanced movements. This method is valued for its pure, clear-cut technique. The Cecchetti method is one of the two primary ballet methods taught to students at Studio R Ballet.
Origins and Characteristics of the Cecchetti Method
The founder of the Cecchetti method, Enrico Cecchetti, was born in 1850. After an esteemed professional dancing and choreographing career, he turned to teaching. Cecchetti was highly influenced by his instructors as well as his own professional dancing experiences. Cecchetti’s teachers had been taught by Carlo Blassis, who emphasized a strict regime based on strong principles of technique. Because of this influence, Cecchetti developed his method to have a regimented routine, where each day of the week would be dedicated to a different ballet step designed to emphasize an important aspect of classical ballet. For example, rond de jambe (round of the leg) emphasizes turnout, and batterie builds quick, strong feet and aids in pointework.
This technique of following a routine ensured that no part of the body would be left out of training, regardless of the whims and preferences of different instructors. Cecchetti developed this idea from his experiences as a professional dancer. He felt that, by focusing individually on each part of the body, this would hone the dancers’ overall technique and create more unified dancers, since the training would not be based on instructors, but rather the method itself.
Cecchetti also based his method on aplomb, or center alignment. Harvey Hysell, who was taught by a private pupil of Cecchetti, explained this principle in more detail. Hysell described Cecchetti’s method of teaching his students to continuously focus on the line beginning from the nose and going down to the feet. This technique creates dancers who are incredibly well balanced with a strong awareness of clean lines. This sense of balance and lines, in turn, makes dancing look effortless instead of strained.
Some additional characteristics of Cecchetti’s method include flowing arms with seamless transitions between positions (meaning that the wrists don’t flip as they do in other methods), fast footwork, and building upon natural turnout from the hips instead of forcing turnout from the knees. It’s important to note that other methods don’t necessarily leave these elements out, but the Cecchetti method focuses very specifically on teaching them.
The Cecchetti Method at SRB
Each ballet method employs slightly different body positions. At SRB, we teach Cecchetti’s basic body positions as well as his arabesque positions. We also strongly emphasize his principle of grounding lines—a single line that pushes down through the toes and rises up through the head—which provides balance and stability while also creating the illusion of weightlessness.
One of Cecchetti’s days of the week focuses specifically on teaching épaulement, or the positioning of the head, neck, and shoulders in every step and transition between steps. Developing a good sense of épaulement is essential for natural, flowing dancing that looks effortless—one of the goals at SRB. Because SRB does not solely teach the Cecchetti method, we don’t generally follow Cecchetti’s daily schedule, but épaulement is taught to be an extremely important aspect of ballet. We strive to produce dancers who make ballet look effortless, natural, and graceful, instead of robotic or overly methodical. Likewise, the other theories taught in the Cecchetti method—that each dedicated daily step strengthens an essential principle in ballet—is implemented at SRB. For example, when practicing rond de jambe, dancers are taught to lead with the heel and inner thigh, emphasizing Cecchetti’s principle of improving natural turnout through rond de jambe.
Dancers who learn the Cecchetti method are at an advantage because of the way it focuses on improving natural abilities and building solid technique from repeatedly practicing basic steps. The Cecchetti method, along with the Vaganova method, is a core teaching method at SRB. It produces dancers who are quick and light on their feet, beautifully balanced, and have a natural sense of what it means to make ballet look effortless.