WHY NOT MORE JOHN CRANKO IN THE US?

(photo by Henrik Stenberg, of Royal Danish Ballet performing Cranko’s Onegin, taken from Danza Ballet)

My friend, Mika, who is half Austrian, half Japanese and who spends a significant amount of time abroad was asking me the other day why I thought there wasn’t much of John Cranko’s work performed here when his ballets are so popular in Europe. I didn’t know. But I do know from some of Evan and Patricio’s Winger posts that his ballets are widely performed elsewhere, including obviously Chile. I was intrigued

so I searched the New York Public Library but, oddly, couldn’t find any of his full-length ballets on video. I did see a short documentary — he was artistic director of Stuttgart Ballet in Germany until his untimely death at age 45 in 1973, and he was very prolific as a choreographer. His most famous work is Eugene Onegin, set to Tchaikovsky and based on T’s opera, and of course originally on the long poem by Aleksander Pushkin.

I found small excerpts of Onegin performed by Natalia Makarova. There’s a BBC video of her return to Leningrad in 1989 (she was the first major Russian star to visit her homeland after defecting to the West) and for her celebration at the Kirov, she performed that ballet.

The choreography looks¬† a lot like MacMillan — heavy on emotion, with all the swirling, dizzying Pashmina lifts. It was really beautiful and I wondered why ABT didn’t put it on more since they do a lot of MacMillan. I see they performed it many years ago, but not recently. I think it is time for a return ABT!

Watch some YouTube vids here and here, and Makarova with Reid Anderson here. If you look at the “related videos” on the right-hand side, you’ll see there are bizillions of Onegin clips there — performed by everyone from Marcia Haydee (the Brazilian ballerina and Cranko’s protege who took over Stuttgart after his death), and Johan Kobborg and Alina Cojocaru, a fairly famous pair from the Royal Danish, etc., etc., so you can click down and watch a good part of the ballet that way. And if you’re interested, read an article in Dance Magazine by the late Clive Barnes here.

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