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Cecchetti and friends

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I came across this photograph in a magazine I bought in a second-hand shop yesterday, and it shows such a galaxy of talent I thought it was worth putting it up.

According to the accompanying text, it shows Cecchetti and the twelve members of the jury after the final examinations at the La Scala ballet school in 1928 - just a few months before Cecchetti died. The others in the photograph are:

Carlotta Zambelli

Pierina Legnani*

Virginia Zucchi

Anna Pavlova

Cia Fornaroli

Ettorina Mazzuchelli

Cecilia Cerri

Rosetta Mascagno

Rosina Galli

Rosa Piovella

Giuseppe Cecchetti

Vincenzo Celli

*either this is a mistake or the picture is misdated, as Legnani died in 1923!

I guess Pavlova is the fourth from the left - any guesses which might be Zambelli and Zucchi?


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Not a clue, I'm afraid -- but I did forward this to a colleague who may (although he's not quite old enough to have been at that gathering). I also have to confess ignorance of many of the Italian names. Are they all dancers, do you know? (I'll try to do a search later if no one does.)

Thank you for posting this, Jane. It's a lovely photo. I want the hats!

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Cia Fornaroli (1888-1954) was one of Cecchetti's favourite pupils. She was the principal dancer at the Met. Op. in NY just before WW1, and was the prima ballerina at La Scala from 1934.

Rosina Galli also danced at the Met.Op and was its ballet mistress from 1919 to 1935.

Rosa Piovella appears on the NYPL index as Rosa Piovella Ansaldo but it doesn't give much idea of what she did.

Vinvenzo Celli was one of Cecchetti's last pupils, and later had a studio in NY for a long time - Maria Tallchief was one of his pupils. Koegler rather tartly says 'Considers himself the American authority on the Cecchetti method'. He died in 1988 (I think).

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A quick web search shows everyone (except a certain Ballet Alert!) giving 1923. But "everyone" is mostly personal web pages, and they may have all picked that up from Koegler, which came out in 1980, I believe. Chujoy (Dance Encyclopedia) and Wiley (Tchaikovsky's Ballets) also give 1923 though. Chujoy was probably there, and I'd trust Wiley to check more than one source.

Unfortunately, Cohen and Al aren't pristine. Find the correct information in the Volkova entry, for instance. But then, I've been told that Koegler has a date or two off as well.

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According to Cohen, she continued to sit on the La Scala Ballet School Examination Board until July 1930. If she passed away in 1923, those examinations must have been more unsettling than most - sort of like wheeling out Jeremy Bentham every year at the London School of Economics board meeting!

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Yes, of course, but then that date would have to be right too. This is getting interesting. A colleague of mine checked the "authority terms" at the Dance Collection and they also list the death date as 1923. I haven't tried the LaScala archives (hint hint).....

Editing to add that Dick Andros's page has Virginia Zucchi dying in 1930, and being on the examinations panel at La Scala until her death.

Obviously one of the dates is in error, and, as often happens, many people have picked up the original error and repeated it. Whicih one remains the question :)

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A helpful colleague sent me these, from [Friedrichs Ballett-lexicon 1972]

Virginia Zucchi: Parma 1847 -- Monte Carlo 1930

Pierina Legnani: 1863 --1923 .

Carlotta Brianza: Milan 1867 -- Paris 1930

Carlotta Zambelli: Milan 1877 -- Milan 1968

Irene Sironi: Milan 1873 -- Como 1961(?) Luigia Cerale: near Turin 1859 -- Vienna 1937

Caecilie Cerri: Turin 1872 -- Vienna 1931

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Ivor Guest in one of his histories of the Opera here at Paris, has a great deal to say about Carlotta Zambelli.

A few minutes of film of Mlle. Zambelli have come down to us, fortunately kept at the Cinémathèque de la Danse, which is a state archive. I have had the great good luck to see that film.

It reveals that Mlle. Zambelli was a rigorously épaulement-free zone, though she seems, from that tiny glimpse, to have had enormous dynamics, as well as charm. The turn-out was far less extreme than in our day, and this appears to have been a factor contributing to the remarkable lightness of her footwork.

Here is what Guest has to say on this precise question, one of some importance, because Mlle. Zambelli spent most of her adult life in Paris, and became a renowned teacher:

"After Mlle. Rosita Mauri retired, in 1920, Mlle. Zambelli took over the 'classe de perfectionnement' which she taught strictly in accordance with the principles that she had herself learnt at Milan. As a result, the French ballet went forward under the influence of the Italian School, thus moving ever-farther away from the old French style, as it had been taught by Auguste Vestris... (etc.)"

That does tend to explain certain things.

Otherwise, may I be allowed to quote a few further lines from Mr. Guest's history:

"in late 1894, for the 1000th performance of 'Faust', the name of Carlotta Zambellli appeared on the Opera's playbill for the first time...On the retirement from the stage of Rosita Mauri in 1898, she became étoile...Over the years, Mlle. Zambelli ... became one of the leading figures of the French stage, in a style that no dancer had embodied since the Romantic period. Leading an extremely modest personal existence, utterly devoted to her art, she won respect not only for herself, but for the dance (...) In 1901, a trip to Saint Petersburg raised her status still further, and the terms were most advantageous, but loyalty to the Opera led her to decline that offer, a decision all the more remarkable, when one contemplates the Slough of Despond into which the ballet was then plunged... "

Might I ask a question of persons, perhaps in England or Italy, who may chance to read this thread, and who are familiar with the work of Enrico Cecchetti ?

Karsavina and Pavlova were his students, and they had épaulement. I have recently seen several Italian dancers who were trained up by professors in that country, who say they work on his method, and they have épaulement. Zambelli as we have seen, had no épaulement.

Are there two currents of thought in Italian teaching, one represented by Cecchetti (épaulement), the other, represented by whoever it was who developed Legnani, Mauri and Zambelli ?

Never having had the opportunity of watching Cecchetti classes, I would be most grateful for any comments in this respect.

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OK, I'm snowed in today, but I'll get to the library and check for a month and day in periodicals. Fortunately my local library has a complete run of Dance Magazine and its predecessors back into World War I, and also The Etude, a music magazine which covered dance as part of opera. They have surprising information in there, sometimes.

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Mel, I do hope your source is the correct one. I did think it a bit strange, when I checked the dates before I put the photo up, that no-one quoted a month or a day, as they seem to for other people.

The picture came from Dance Index, for July 1946, which consists of a long article on Cecchetti by Vincenzo Celli (who is presumably the young man with all the dark hair).

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Interesting for many different reasons, and yes, the man with the hair is Vincenzo Celli. By the time I was making the rounds of schools in NYC in the 60s, he had dropped one "l" and had become Vincenzo Celi. I never worked up the nerve to ask him why. Maybe he thought it made him look like a cello section?;)

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Ivor Guest reproduces this picture in his biography of Virginia Zucchi. According to him Zucchi is on Cecchetti's right and Fornaroli is between them. Pierina Legnani he describes as 'third from right' and Celi as 'third from left'.

Could Zambelli be the woman immediately on Cecchetti's left and slightly behind him?

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on a different focus entirely: i have never seen such a 'sweet' - or pretty- looking picture of pavlova...

probably you have all seen the marvellous studio photo of cecchetti taking class with an equally illustrious line-up of stars at the barre?

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Pavlova was apparently on the set of Charlie Chaplin's The Cure, and appeared briefly as an extra as one of the hotel guests in a lobby scene, and at the spring after Charlie's nurse pours his illegal stash of whiskey into it, and the entire hotel goes on a rip-snorting drunk. If she's the one I think she is, she does a pretty good prattfall!

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Alymer, I shouild think that could easily be Zambelli, who was only in her early fifties - but it's very hard to estimate the age of any of them - Zucchi looks amazingly well-preserved for nearly 80. And if Ivor Guest says Legnani was still alive by then, that settles it for me!

According to Celli, incidentally, Cecchetti on his deathbed recommended that Fornaroli should succeed him as principal of the La Scala school (which she did), but added 'But remember, you must eventually get a man for the place'.

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I received an email from George Jackson with some information on Italian ballerinas:

dell'Era was for a long time prima in Berlin; in Theodor Fontane's novels, sophisticated Berliners are always rushing off to see dell'Era dance. Jane Pritchard not long ago had an article (Dancing Times, I think) on her.

The reason there is confusion about the death of several Italian ballerinas is that they often left the scene of their fame -- which could have been any one of a number of European cities -- when they retired and returned to their birthplaces where they may not have been well known. Pensions were sent to them there, and when they died their relatives were understandably not prompt in notifying the Vienna or Munich or wherever Operahouse because then the money would stop coming.

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