I started my career with John Cranko at Stuttgart Ballet. Having danced in the world premieres of Onegin, Romeo and Juliet and many other Cranko ballets, his choreography inspired me throughout my long career, be it with with Scottish Ballet, Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet or as artistic director of Napac Dance Company and the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
During a Stuttgart Ballet reunion in 2011 it struck me that the unique atmosphere of Cranko’s company had persisted for over forty years. What was it that made his spirit live on? I decided that I must answer that question.
I decided, rather impulsively, that I would do a PhD through Roehampton University in London. My marvellous mentors were the distinguished Professor Stephanie Jordan and Dr Larraine Nicholas, and they encouraged me to write about the genesis of Cranko’s ballets. After nearly two years of research, and some fabulous discoveries in the Tate Britain archives, the commuting to and from Australia was too taxing. That, the expense and a three years of heart problems put paid to the PhD. (My brilliant cardiologists saved my life, by the way!)
Accepting the fact that I needed to slow down a bit, I decided on a book about Cranko and the making of his ballets. John Percival’s 1983 biography had served well but was out of print, and in any case I had found a lot of material during my uni. research – including rare photographs, and many of Cranko’s personal letters as well as masses of reference material.
Further research took me from Sydney to London and Stuttgart three times. There was also a week in Tel Aviv learning about the piece ‘Song of my People’ that Cranko made there. These were uplifting experiences: everywhere, some wonderful people gave me generous help, as if they, too, were touched by Cranko’s spirit. Fifty years after his tragically early death, my book aims to brings you surprising insights about this truly exceptional man of theatre.
You can find more detail about the book and an account of my research trips on www.crankobiography.com