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Enrico Cecchetti’s Influence on the Russia Ballet Research Paper

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Introduction

Among the great people who have contributed to the development of the ballet technique to a high level is Enrico Cecchetti. Following his contribution, he has turned out to be one of the most famous figures in the world. In a similar manner as people like ”Carlo Blasis, Thoinot Arbeau, and Pierre Rameau, Cecchetti owes his fame in a larger part to the written codification of his teachings and to the creation of a “method” through which his doctrines have been passed on to posterity” (Adshead-Lansdale and Layson 117). A large number of people believe that Russia is the world’s ballet capital and the man believed to be behind this is Enrico Cecchetti. However, the question to be investigated in this paper is; how did Enrico Cecchetti enhance the technique and performance value of the Russian Ballet to aid in Russia’s takeover of the ballet world? In this research, it is going to be established that; Enrico Cecchetti’s exquisite teaching at the Imperial Ballet School and ability to inspire through his performances brought the Russian ballet to its apex during the late 19th and early 20th century

Enrico Cecchetti’s influence on the Russian Ballet

Enrico Cecchetti was born in the year 1850 on 21st June. He was an Italian ballet dancer. His parents were dancers too and it was from them that he obtained his career. Enrico had exposure to dance scenes right from his birth (Kassing 145). He received praises following the agility and strength he had in the performance he carried out and he was also praised for his technical abilities (Wiley 375). He commenced learning about ballet from such people as Filippo Taglioni, Cesare Coppini, and Giovanni Lepri, all of whom were Carlo Blasis’ pupils. The initial dancing debut of Enrico Cecchetti was at La scala, Milan (Moore 133). After traveling around Europe, Enrico Cecchetti moved to Russia at St. Petersburg, and at this point, he joined the Imperial Russian Ballet. It did not take long before he was given a chance to serve as a teacher and started teaching at the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg. This facilitated the building up and establishment of the Cecchetti ballet technique and the incorporation of the technique in a Russian ballet (Macintosh 353).

Jean-Baptiste Landé brought the French ballet’s accuracy, stylishness, and sobriety to Russia which was initially set up by Pierre Beauchamp and King Louis XIV. The French ballet is considered as having been the original official ballet and plays a role as the base for the other types of ballet. The French technique’s main objective was to be seen as graceful, stylish, and soft as possible. Pierre Beauchamp undertook the composition of most of the rigid ballet rules. Among these rules were such rules as “the five positions of the feet” and there is a reflection of this in the Russian ballet. The Russian school went on copying the French style, classes as well as the French look, up to the mid-1800s. This was a time when new instructors arrived from various parts of Europe and this led to the development of an international aspect dance of the Russian ballet. In the year 1885, an Italian dancer by the name of Virginia Zucchi made an appearance at the Russian ballet as a guest. The technical talent she had shook the entire Russian ballet and served as an inspiration for the desire to have technical executions such as this one (Scholl 14).

The Russian ballet went through a complete transformation at the time Enrico Cecchetti arrived in the year 1887. The Russian ballet facilitated the absorption of the technical superiority that he had and worked towards ensuring a combining of the French charm and the Italian technique. The transition that is of great significance is that, rather than being inclined towards a single direction, mostly done by Italians, the people of Russia engaged in working in the sides for them to turn out to be flexible as well as ambidextrous. Eventually, what resulted from this was the emergence of the greatest dancers such as Anna Pavlova and Mathilde Kschessinskaya among others (Adshead-Lansdale and Layson 123).

One of the French ballet dancers by the name of Marius Petipa was the choreographer for the Imperial Russian Ballet starting from the year 1862. He set up several memorable ballet performances. Among these performances that he set up were such performances as La Bayadere, Don Quixote, and Coppelia. It can as well be stated that Marius Pepita came up with classic ballet, referring to technique and style. Combining the teaching of Cecchetti and the choreography of Pepita can be attributed to taking ballet of Russia to new levels. Even if in the course of the 1800s there was no existence of video recording, there have been remaining of the ballets of Pepita as classics for more than a century. The Imperial Russian Ballet to this moment keeps performances in the collection of the company with the initial choreography. Thus, there can still be the admiration of the work of Pepita and this serves as an inspiration to the new generation (Colin and Shelia).

The theory that was suggested is that the pieces of Petipa turned out o be more complicated in the course of the Cecchetti epoch. The teaching of Cecchetti brought improvement to the ability of the Russian dancers to the greatest level and made it possible for Pepita to come up with shows that were far much better. When these videos are viewed, the judgment of these videos can’t be carried out for technical execution. In making a comparison between the dancers in the modern world and those of the 19th Century, the modern dancers are far much more flexible. Judgment for the support of this claim can be carried out by considering the actual steps composition and the need for quickness (Colin and Shelia).

The initial performance of La Bayadere was carried out by the Imperial Russian Ballet on the fourth day of February 1877. Music was played by Leon Minkus. The performance viewed was carried out in 2002 by the Mariinsky Ballet, the new name for the Imperial Russian Ballet, with the original choreography of Marius Pepita. Morte de Nikiya is the solo section performed by the character Nikiya, portrayed by Daria Pavlenko. The movement of the dance is elegant and there are many beautiful lines made. For example, the two consecutive arches on the floor with one leg tucked and the other in an arabesque. The adage portion only made these wonderful lines paired with a few extensions. The allegro portion had quicker movements, but none of the hard execution. The pas de deux is entitled Grand Pas de Deux and is performed by the characters Solor and Gamzatti, portrayed by Igor Kolb and Elvira Tarasova. Typical pas de deux movements are displayed such as assisted turns, promenades, and lifts. Long, drawn-out leg extensions are the focus and are well executed. The choir performance is entitled Sortie des Bayadères. The movements are simplistic with arabesques and bourrées. The entrance line, in the beginning, is unique and interesting to watch but becomes daunting since only arabesques are being performed consecutively for four minutes. The highlight of the piece is the arabesque that swings to the fourth position forward and then rapidly moves into a turn of bourrées to the other side. The sight of all dancers simultaneously completing the move compels a state of awe. All portions of the ballet are graceful, as expected, but the complexity of movement is not shown (Houston Arts Week).

Sleeping Beauty, one of the most famous and renounced performances of the Imperial Russian Ballet, was first performed on January 15, 1890. The choreography was by Marius Petipa and the music was composed by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (Houston Arts Week). Practically, this is not a solo for the reason that ballerina (Aurora) engages in dancing with partners, four in number, but it is regarded as a solo for the reason that Aurora carries out much of the complex dancing. Aurora is seen to carry out very demanding balancing movements and at the same time shifting partners. Every move turns out to be more complex in an exceeding manner starting with leg extension as well as balancing arabesques. Aurora engages in balancing “en pointe in an arabesque” and is rotated 360 degrees by all of the partners, one at a time. Aurora lifts their hands over her head before taking the next partner’s hand. The ballerina remains solid (“Sleeping beauty”).

Cecchetti engaged in offering training to one of the most famous dancers, Pavlova. He committed all the time he had in teaching Pavlova for three years that followed. The moment she entered, Cecchetti commenced teaching her as a mentor and was able to mold her into the best ballet dancer of the early years of the 1900s. There can be a seeing of the essence of the Cecchetti technique through Pavlova. This is true especially when it is considered that Pavlova was transformed by Cecchetti starting from the onset of ballet training (“Enrico Cecchetti” Novelguide.com, Para 5).

One of the performances carried out by Ann Pavlova is “The dying swan”, The Dying Swan was a solo created for Anna Pavlova by Michel Fokine. It was first performed in 1905. The viewed performance is of Pavlova in 1907. The whole routine is extremely stylized since the piece mimics the movements of a swan. While maintaining the grace and stature of the magnificent swan, the element of struggle must be exerted to show the dying portion of the character. The chambres during the first half of the dance are too beautiful to be described correctly. The execution begins normally and then overextends into a further arch with the arms moving from the position and falling to the sides. The head loses all control with a bit of a side lean and conveys the perfect message of the piece. Bourrées is the main step of the solo, but are performed with the head cocked to the right side or released into a small arch and in circles. The complication exists in performing the step with the stylization.

Among the recent performances that were carried out of “The Dying Swan” was once carried out at “Wells Fargo Center for the Arts” in Santa Rosa, CA on the 20th day of February 2007. In this performance, there is lending itself of “The Dying Swan” nearly too easily to satire. The show, which is carried out by Katarina Bychokova commences in a complete parody style, having the following spot moving from one point o the other on the stage looking for the Swan. At the moment the spotlight and the swan get each other, shedding commences, white feathers heaped in huge drifts across the whole stage, and at the same time Katarina bourrées and flutters about in a slow death twist. Once in a while, there is slowing of the bourrées at the same time Katarina sinks into one of the usual kneeling positions of the swan for more fluttering, and on a single occasion, a round of floor-bourrées. Just about through mid-way, as Katarina realizes that shedding is a sign of her slow death, she starts to take feathers that are loose and makes an effort of putting back the feathers into her tutu. As death takes charge, she engages in folding into a sitting position that is among the very uncomfortable positions in ballet. In this position, one of the legs is extended to the front and the other leg is bent in half beneath and at this time the full weight is balanced precariously on a single hell and at the same time, there is delicately curving of the upper body on the leg that is extended. Katarina does exactly what those swans that are young struggle not to engage in doing: she engages in rolling off of that single heel onto her side and at this time the tutu is bent into a vertical line two times. After making the last breath, Katarina rouses the audience into applause before leaving the stage after shedding feathers one more time.

Although the entire teaching method of Cecchetti is not, in the current days, at the Russian schools, there is still seeing of his big handprint. At the time Cecchetti was an instructor at the Imperial Ballet School, Agrippa Vaganova was there as a student. After Vaganova’s dancing profession, she came up with a ballet technique that is held in high esteem (“ Agrippina Vaganova”, Para 7). When a comparison is carried out between the technique of Cecchetti and that of Vaganova, the similarities that are there between these two techniques are seen. Among the values that were introduced to Vaganova by Cecchetti while she was his student were definite to a level that she incorporated them into her technique and just carried out a few adjustments ( “Awards of outstanding International importance to statesmen and heroines”, Para 9).

From the time it was installed, the Vaganova technique has turned out to be the eventual teaching style for Russian ballet. There is the teaching of this method at the present Imperial Ballet Academy as well as at the Russian ballet studios that are certified in the United States of America. Based on this, it can be concluded that Enrico Cecchetti has been in a position to impact the present Russian ballet even in the absence of him engaging in direct teaching (Danza Ballet, Agrippina Vaganova).

A very much clear similarity that can be traced in the ballet method of Cecchetti and that of Vaganova is the one that is referred to as the “eight imaginary points system”. To assist students at the time they were learning hand positions as well as the body positions, Cecchetti engaged in labeling the wall of the room as well as every corner. This system as well enabled a teacher to make a description of the body movement is just an oral manner in the course of a combination. Labeling of the walls was carried out first then followed by the labeling of the corners. Based on the labeling of the corners; the front right corner was labeled as one. Two was the back right corner. Three was the back left corner, four was the front left, the front right was labeled as five, and six referred to the right sidewall. Number seven was the left side wall and eight referred to the front left corner.

It is a little bit much easier to understand the Vaganova method. However, the two methods are effective when they are employed properly in the course of training. The significance and need of this great instrument are evident, bringing in no doubt to the cause for making use of the original idea (Cecchetti’s idea).

In the class setting, as viewed at Dancer’s Edge Dance Studio in Winter Park, Florida, Cecchetti is taught straight from the syllabus. Each combination was directed from the book in the specific order of barre. The students had performed all the exercises in previous ballet classes. The staff even used music composed for each combination and distributed by the Cecchetti Council of America. The studio had each of the room points numbered as specified by Cecchetti, making it extremely easy for young and new students to quickly learn the directions. There were exercises done facing the barre and with one hand on the barre.

The Vaganova classes, viewed at the School of Russian Ballet in Sarasota, Florida, were very similar to the Cecchetti classes. The dancers performed basic barre exercises like those of Cecchetti followed by center combinations. The teacher swiftly created each exercise and showed the students. The most notable difference between the two studios was the flexibility level. The dancers of the Vaganova school had higher leg extensions when executing grands battlements and developments. In addition, each student had an extreme back, almost bending completely in half when performing a back cambre. It can be inferred that in the beginning ballet levels of this studio an emphasis is put on stretching. It is easier for young children to manipulate their bodies because their bone structure has not permanently settled and they have not stopped growing.

Conclusion

Enrico Cecchetti’s exquisite teaching at the Imperial Ballet School and ability to inspire through his performances brought the Russian ballet to its apex during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After traveling around Europe, Enrico Cecchetti moved to St. Petersburg in Russia and at this point, he joined the Imperial Russian Ballet. This was where he was given a chance to serve as a teacher and started teaching at the Imperial Ballet School. This facilitated development of the Cecchetti ballet technique and the incorporation of the technique in Russian ballet. Cecchetti build up himself as among the greatest teachers in the world of his skill while he was with Imperial Ballet. Apart from Cecchetti engaging in teaching at the” Imperial School of Ballet”, he as well worked in the capacity of “the choreographer” of the organization. He also served in the capacity of a rehearsal director beginning from the year 1887 and in the years that followed.

The Russian bullet went through a complete transformation following Enrico Cecchetti’s presence in Russia. The Russian ballet facilitated the absorption of the technical superiority that Cecchetti had and worked towards ensuring combining the French charm and the Italian technique. The transition that is of great significance is that, rather than being inclined towards a single direction, mostly done by Italians, the people of Russia engaged in working in the sides for them to become flexible. Eventually, what resulted from this was the coming up of the greatest dancers and among these were famous people like Anna Pavlova and Mathilde Kschessinskaya among others (“History and terminology”).

One of the French ballet dancers by the name of Marius Pepita was the choreographer for the Imperial Russian Ballet starting from the year 1862. He set up several memorable ballet performances. Among these performances that he set up were such performances as La Bayadere, Don Quixote, and Coppelia. It can as well be stated that Marius Pepita came up with classic ballet, referring to technique and style. Combining the teaching of Cecchetti and the choreography of Pepita can be attributed to taking the ballet of Russia to new levels

Pavlova, who was not at that time a dancer that had acquired enough skills, hired Cecchetti to teach her privately. He committed all the time he had in teaching Pavlova for three years that followed. The moment she entered, Cecchetti commenced teaching her as a mentor and was able to mold her into the best ballet dancer of the early years of the 1900s. There can be a seeing of the essence of the Cecchetti technique through Pavlova. This is true especially when it is considered that Pavlova was transformed by Cecchetti starting from the onset of ballet training. Later, Pavlova turned out to be among the most prominent dancers internationally, bringing up the level of Russian ballet globally. On top of this, Cecchetti got involved in instructing a large number of other prominent dancers of the “New Russian Ballet”. Among these prominent dancers were such dancers as Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina.

Although the entire teaching method of Cecchetti is not, in the current days, at the Russian ballet schools, there is still seeing of his big handprint. At the time Cecchetti was an instructor at the Imperial Ballet School, Agrippa Vaganova was there as a student. After Vaganova’s dancing career, she came up with a ballet technique that is held in high esteem. When a comparison is made between the technique of Cecchetti and that of Vaganova, the similarities that are there between these two techniques are seen. Among the values that were introduced to Vaganova by Cecchetti while she was his student were definite to a level that she incorporated them into her technique and just carried out a few adjustments. From the time it was installed, the Vaganova technique has turned out to be the eventual teaching style for Russian ballet. There is the teaching of this method at the present Imperial Ballet Academy as well as at the Russian ballet studios that are certified in the United States of America. Based on this, it can be concluded that Enrico Cecchetti has been in a position to impact the present Russian ballet even in the absence of his engagement indirect teaching.

Based on the performances that have been watched of the choreography that was performed before, during, and after Cecchetti, it can be realized that these performances have become more and more complex with time. Before Cecchetti, the performances were not very much complex and with Cecchetti’s contribution, these performances have gone to a higher level.

Indeed, Enrico Cecchetti played a major role in bringing up the level of Russian ballet and this was through his exquisite teaching at the Imperial Ballet School and his ability to inspire through his performances. Other than teaching, his students were inspired by his performance and that is why most of them were so loyal to him and they turned out to be great dancers and were known internationally.

Works Cited

Adshead-Lansdale, Janet and Layson, June, Dance history: an introduction. New York: Routledge, 1994.

“Agrippina Vaganova.” novelguide.com. novelguide, 2005. Web.

“Awards of outstanding International importance to statesmen and heroines” collectnobel.com. collectnobel, n.d. Web.

Colin, Blakemore and Shelia, Jennett. “ballet.” The Oxford Companion to the Body. 2001. Encyclopedia.com.

Danza Ballet, Agrippina Vaganova – The Vaganova method, 2005. Web.

“Enrico Cecchetti.” novelguide.com. novelguide, 1999. Web.

“History and terminology.” tampereenbalettiopisto.com. tampereenbalettiopisto n.d. Web.

Houston Arts Week, .

Kassing, Gayle, History of dance: an interactive arts approach. Human kinetics, 2007.

Macintosh, Fiona, The ancient dancer in the modern world: response to Greek and Roman dance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Moore Lillian, Echoes of American ballet: a collection of seventeen articles. New Jersey: Dance Horizons, 1976.

Racster, Olga, The Master of the Russian Ballet, E.P Dutton, 1923.

Scholl, Tim, From Pepita to Balanchine: Classical revival and the modernization of ballet dance history. New York: Routledge, 1994.

, lovetoknow.com. lovetoknow, 2009.

Wiley, Roland John, A century of Russian Ballet. New York: Oxford Clarendon Press, 1990.

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