On June 21, 1850, two renowned dancers, Cesare Cecchetti and Serafina Casagli, gave birth to a boy who would become one of the greatest legends of classical ballet: Enrico Cecchetti. Cecchetti was born in the Tordinona Theatre dressing room in Rome, Italy. The theater played a significant role in Cecchetti and his siblings, Pia and Guiseppe's, life. His first stage debut was as an infant in his father's arms. At the age of five, he appeared in his first ballet, The Gambler, and in 1857 toured the United States with his parents, siblings, and the Ronzani Ballet Company at the age of seven, which he also partnered with his sister Pia. Rather than pursuing a career in law or business as his parents planned, Cecchetti's passion and dedication to dance swayed his parents to allow him to continue his study in dance professionally to later be famed as a virtuoso dancer, mime artist, and one of the greatest teachers of his time.
Cecchetti first studied the fundamentals of ballet with his father, but later sent for auxiliary training to Giovanni Lepri. Training with Lepri also led him to study under Cesare Coppini, Filippo Taglioni, and Caterina Baretta all of whom had been pupils of the great Carlo Blasis. Cecchetti's training allowed him to develop uniqueness about himself compared to other dancers in the nineteenth century. The standard structure for every Italian ballet company was characterized by divisions between ballerini di rango italiano, "dancers of Italian rank," and ballerini di rango francese, "dancers of French rank" (Poesio 234). Dancers of the "Italian rank" are characterized as those who excelled as mime artists while maintaining the Italian coreodramma tradition, and dancers of the "French rank" were those whose skills were based off of the principles of the French academic curriculum (Poesio 234). .
Italian gestural codes also follow traditions of the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries and included a more personal repertoire of narrative poses and gestures.