Richard Cragun, one of the most important dancers of the 20th century has died at 67. His legendary partnership with Marcia Haydée, the ground-breaking work at Stuttgart Ballet with John Cranko, and his beauty and virile strength as a dancer, will earn him a permenant place in dance history.
Yesterday, August 6, he suffered a seizure triggered by a lung infection, and died in Rio de Janeiro soon after being admitted to hospital. His ex-partner in life and in dance, Marcia Haydée, said,
Richard was one of the best dancers in the world. Even after our separation, we were the best of friends; I could call him anytime.
He was born in California in 1944. He studied tap-dance and ballet but also attended the Banff School of Fine Arts in Canada, and he continued to draw all his life. Cragun went to the Royal Ballet School in London and completed his studies in Copenhagen where he spent a year as a private pupil of Vera Volkova.
In 1962 he made the most important decision of his career and joined the Stuttgart Ballet, and in 1965 he was promoted to principal dancer. It was here that his 30-year partnership with Marcia Haydée started, though he also partnered Fonteyn and most other leading ballerinas of the day. Cragun was a handsome man on-stage and off , and when he created Petruchio for Cranko in 1969 in Taming of the Shrew the role fitted him like a glove.
He retired from the stage in 1996, and after three years as ballet director at Berlin's Deutsche Oper he moved with his partner, Brazilian choreographer Roberto de Oliveira, to Rio de Janeiro. Here they launched DeAnima Ballet Contemporâneo for youngsters from the black slums.
Cragun had been ill for some time after having a stroke in 2005, and complications with the drug cocktail which allowed him to live with AIDS.
His younger brother Lawrence said,
Rich was very talkative and creative. He was always down to earth and never had a big ego. He was always looking to help people.
Richard Cragun leaves his partner with whom he has lived the past 14 years. He will be cremated tomorrow.
He was noted for his interpretations of Romeo and Onegin in Cranko's stagings and created many roles for Cranko, including parts in L'estro armonico (1963), Opus 1 (1965), Mozart Concerto (1966), Présence (1968), Taming of the Shrew (1969, the role of Petruchio), Brouillards (1970), Poème de l'extase (1970), Carmen (1971), Initials R.B.M.E. (1972), and Traces (1973).
He also created roles in Peter Wright'sThe Mirror Walkers (1963), MacMillan's Song of the Earth (1965), Requiem (1977), and My Brother, My Sisters (1978), Tetley's Voluntaries (1973) and Daphnis and Chloé (1975), Neumeier's Lady of the Camellias (1978) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1983), which showcased his enduring partnership with Haydée, Forsythe's Orpheus (1979), and Kylián's Forgotten Land (1981).
Cragun also created roles in ballets by Béjart, including La Danse (1983) and Operette(1985).
In 1990 he starred in the Stuttgart revival of the Broadway musical On Your Toes. He retired from the stage in 1996 and was appointed artistic director of the Berlin Opera Ballet. He left Berlin in 1999 to start a new ballet company in the Brazilian city of Curitiba.
New York Times – Richard Cragun, Stuttgart Ballet Dancer, Dies at 67
The Telegraph – Richard Cragun
The Guardian – Richard Cragun obituary
The Sacramento Bee – Obituary: Sacramento native Richard Cragun found international fame as ballet dancer
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.