15 August 1927|
Rustenburg, South Africa
|Died||26 June 1973
On board transatlantic flight
|Occupation||Ballet dancer and choreographer|
|Parents||Herbert and Grace Cranko|
Cranko was born in Rustenburg in the former province of Transvaal, South Africa. As a child, he would put on puppet shows as a creative outlet. Cranko received his early ballet training in Cape Town under the leading South African ballet teacher and director, Dulcie Howes, of the University of Cape Town Ballet School. He then moved to London.
Following the expiration of the copyright on Arthur Sullivan's music in 1950, John Cranko choreographed the comic ballet Pineapple Poll, in collaboration with Charles Mackerras, for a British Festival. Pineapple Poll was based on W. S. Gilbert's Bab Ballad The Bumboat Woman's Story, with music exclusively by Sir Arthur Sullivan including music from various Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. His father, Herbert, a balletomane, spent a great deal of time with him in London. Another collaboration with Mackerras followed with The Lady and the Fool.
John Cranko wrote and developed a musical revue Cranks, which opened in London in December 1955, moved to a West End theatre the following March, and ran for over 220 performances. With music by John Addison, its cast of four featured singers Anthony Newley, Annie Ross, Hugh Bryant and dancer Gilbert Vernon then transferred to New York. An original cast CD has recently been released. Cranko followed the format of Cranks with a new revue New Cranks opening at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith on 26 April 1960 with music by David Lee and a stellar cast including Gillian Lynne, Carole Shelley and Bernard Cribbins, but it failed to have the same impact.
Cranko also directed in 1960 the first performance of Benjamin Britten's opera A Midsummer Night's Dream and choreographed the ballet Onegin, an adaptation of the verse novel Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin set to music by Tchaikovsky (mainly The Seasons) orchestrated by Kurt-Heinz Stolze. Other full length ballets he choreographed are Romeo and Juliet, set to music by Prokofiev and The Taming of the Shrew.
Cranko choked to death after suffering an allergic reaction to a sleeping pill he took during a transatlantic flight. His mother, Grace, who was divorced from Herbert and lived in what was then Rhodesia, heard about his death from a radio broadcast. The ballet Voluntaries by Glen Tetley was created in the memory of John Cranko.
- "Choreographer John Cranko of Stuttgart Ballet dies". The Montreal Gazette. UPI. 27 June 1973.