About my book

Why a book about a choreographer who has been dead for nearly 50 years? Although Cranko has long been well known for his big story ballets, I have always thought that more people should know about his other works, and the amazing achievements of his short but fascinating life. He inspired a great many people. I decided I must write a biography that took the reader into Cranko’s world.

John in 1973

The general facts are well known. Shortly after the New York Times had hailed John Cranko’s achievement as ‘The German Ballet Miracle’, his death mid-Atlantic deprived the world of one of its greatest choreographers.

His was a relatively brief career. After leaving his native South Africa at eighteen Cranko quickly became a resident choreographer with the Royal Ballet. He collaborated closely with luminaries such as Benjamin Britten and John Piper and he encouraged the young Kenneth MacMillan. Tirelessly innovative, he devised a hit musical revue, Cranks as well as perennial favourites such as Pineapple Poll. His charm and wit endeared him to colleagues and royalty alike, but in the late 1950s his star began to wane. This, and a much-publicised scandal, drove Cranko to leave England for Germany. There, his work as director and choreographer of the Stuttgart Ballet enjoyed phenomenal success in USA, Russia and Europe.

Sir David Bintley

David Bintley kindly agreed to write a Foreword to my book. Here is a small excerpt:

“Nothing prepared me for the depth of research and perception that Ashley has brought to his subject … above all the sheer readability of his book, which I believe will not only mark it out as the definitive record of Cranko and his ballets, but also make it widely read and enjoyed.”

David was artistic director of Birmingham Royal Ballet 1995-2019. This is the company that started as Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet in 1946, and where Cranko made his name after arriving from South Africa.

Reid Anderson testimonial

Reid Anderson has also read the book, pre-publication. Here is his testimonial:

“Questions about a life  such as John Cranko’s cause us to ask where? when? with whom? how? and above all why? Ashley Killar’s book answers those questions, enabling the reader to ‘connect the dots’ of John’s short, industrious life in a very knowledgeable, personal and meticulously researched work. Ashley has written the book with care, passion and love!”

Canada-born Reid Anderson danced with Stuttgart Ballet during Cranko’s final years. He later became artistic director of Canadian National Ballet before returning to Germany as Intendant of Stuttgart Ballet from 1996-2018. He now travels the world mounting ballets by Cranko.

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