The Italians were the first to codify and systematize ballet training. Enrique Cecchetti, born in the dressing room of a theater in 1850, is considered the father of this method, though Cecchetti built on the principles of Carlo Blasis, who codified his own teaching method in 1820.
Known for its brilliancy and virtuosity, this method includes many unique modifications of steps. For example, an Italian changement is a change of the feet done in the same way as a traditional changment except that both legs come to a retiré position mid-changée. Other evolutions include interesting “off-balance” poses – think a lá secónde with the body tilted away from the leg. Additionally, new labels and executions were created for port de bras, arabesques, attitudes, body positions and wall/corner numbering. Perhaps the most widely-seen modification is the flexed-foot, floor-striking battement frappé, which is seen in the classes of other techniques quite frequently.
As a part of the systematization of this method, the Cecchetti technique is governed by a strict program of examinations, and classes for each level are actually pre-set for the particular day of the week, so that the teachers do not plan new barre exercises or centre enchainments each week. This helps the students to study and perfect examination exercises.
The Cecchetti Counsel of America is the accrediting institution in the U.S., but the true home of this technique is the Accademia Teatro alla Scala in Italy. The Scala school is not just for dance but also includes music, stage, and performing arts management departments.
The ballet company of La Scala is one of the most revered in the world, and was and is home to many of the most famous dancers of today and yesterday including Maria Taglioni, Carlotta Grisi, Roberto Bolle and Alessandra Ferri. And although Svetlana Zakharova is a Vaganova ballerina, one of her current contracts is as a principal dancer étoile with La Scala.