The most recent review (18 Oct. ’23) is from Jeanette Anderson. She is based in Munich and contributes to Dance International Vancouver, Danza e Danza Milan and SeeingDance in New York.
In December last year, another book was published commemorating John Cranko, Ashley Killar’s, Cranko: the Man and his Choreography, now re-released in a revised second edition. Killar began his career as a dancer with Cranko in Stuttgart where he performed from 1962 to 1967. He then went on to work as ballet master and artistic director of various other companies.
Killar’s book on Cranko is thoroughly researched. It begins before the choreographer’s birth, briefly recounting his parents’ story before continuing with that of Cranko’s life, from his early childhood in South Africa, where he was born, to his time in London, and his successful years in Stuttgart. But it is more than just a biography. It puts Cranko into his social and historical context. Killar shows us South Africa during the first half of the last century with its apartheid regime. He tells us about the poverty of post-war London, a time when being homosexual was a criminal act, and the German Wirtsschaftswunder-years in the 1960’s with a recently divided country in a Western and an Eastern part.
Killar also recounts in detail the creation of each ballet and its reception. He digs briefly into the biographies of some of the people who influenced or worked closely with Cranko. The composer Benjamin Brittan, who wrote the music for the choreographer’s The Prince of the Pagodas; the artist John Piper, who created some sets for him, and his wife Myfanwy, who worked with him on some of his librettos during his time in London; and in Germany, Walter Eric Schaefer, the director of the theatre, who made Cranko’s success possible. Just to mention a few.
The book is a good and very interesting read and brings many details about Cranko and the people around him. Although Killar gets very close to his subject, he never insists on presenting the ultimate truth. If he cannot prove a statement by Cranko with a quote from a letter or an interview, he says, Cranko might have thought, been inspired, or similar, which is very respectful.
Cranko: the Man and his Choreography includes a catalogue of Cranko’s works, a selection of his letters, a selection of synopses and program notes and a chapter on Stuttgart ballet and school after his passing.
Cranko: the Man and his Choreography
Author: Ashley Killar
Published: July 28, 2023 (2nd edition)
Paperback, 512 pages
Cover price: £24.95