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Richard Cragun 1944 - 2012


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American dancer Richard Cragun, famous partner of Marcia Haydée, who created roles for John Cranko, Kenneth MacMillan, Glen Tetley and John Neumeier, died in a hospital at Rio de Janeiro today. More to follow later.

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I'm very sorry to hear that Richard Cragun has passed away. When guesting with ENB, it was his and Marcia Haydee's performance in Onegin that converted me to ballet on 26th May 1984.

 

Condolences to his friends and family at this very sad time.

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My first, and - as far as I'm concerned - BEST 'all round' Romeo ... and that estimation being drawn from a now vast array of differing interpretations .... The memory of Cragun's personal glory - especially in tandem with Haydee - will reign eternal. What joy this man proffered with such seeming ease. Perhaps that was key to his brilliance: Certainly In ALL it proffered an enormous gift. Nothing more ever needed to be said: It spoke for itself. Thank heavens an essence of his characterful elegance and musicality remains on film ... Bless you NOW and FOREVER, Richard Cragun. Bless you for a life WELL LIVED. I but for one was proud to be able to share in but a very small part of its ebullience.

Edited by Meunier
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For those (younger people of whom I'm aware there are an ever burgeoning many) who may not have had the great joy of seeing Mr. Cragun ... here he is with Ms. Haydee ... in the awakening pas de deux in Cranko's R&J, such as was so gloriously created for them ... Some things DO stand the test of time ... blessedly ... and without hesitation I know they will live on in their unquestioned inspiration ...

 

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Here is a video posted last year in which Cragun talks about rehearsing Cranko:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0ueiGG84o0

 

What a shame he wasn't able to work with the RB dancers. One can but feel they could have profited from such work vis a vis, say, Oneign. He is so, so very clear about being dramatically 'specific' .... and his own performances ... 'lived it' ...

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZm8Sv_IQuo

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Richard Cragun was born in 1942 in Sacramento, California. He started with tap dancing before learning ballet and joined Stuttgart Ballet in 1962. There he was very soon promoted to principal and danced with Marcia Haydée for more than thirty years in one of the legendary partnerships in ballet history. Ricky, as he was called by his fans, had a brillant technique, fast turns, high and easy jumps, he was famous for his triple tours en l’air in "Taming of the Shrew". And he was a perfect partner.

 

John Cranko created the role of Petrucchio in "Taming" for him, Cragun also danced Cranko’s Romeo and was the best Onegin I can think of until today. Many other roles were created for him: one of the "shadows" to Margot Fonteyn in Cranko’s "Poème de l’extase", the first movement in Cranko’s "Initials R.B.M.E.", roles in MacMillan’s "Requiem" (he also danced The Man in "Song of the Earth" so many times), in Tetley’s "Voluntaries", the title role in William Forsythe’s only story ballet "Orpheus", Des Grieux in Neumeier’s "Lady of the Camellias" (he also was a wonderful Armand) and Stanley Kowalski in Neumeier’s "A Streetcar Named Desire". One of his greatest roles came along when he was already 43 years old (and he still had a brillant technique with 50 years): Carabosse in Haydée’s version of "Sleeping Beauty", where he stole the show with his fast turns and jumps, making every single Prince Desiré look pale. In 1990, Stuttgart Ballet staged the musical "On Your Toes", Ricky played the tap dancing and singing music professor Phil Dolan, making his childhood dream come true.

 

In 1996 he finished his dancing career to become director of the Ballet of Deutsche Oper Berlin, one of the companies that later were merged into Berlin State Ballet. He was not very successful and left Germany in 1999, moving to Brazil, where he founded a contemporary ballet company in Rio de Janeiro with his partner Roberto de Oliveira. He also directed the ballet company of the Teatro Municipal for some years. He suffered from a severe burn-out and a stroke in 2005 and was in a induced coma for several weeks, afterwards he never got well again. He came to Stuttgart once more for the 50 year jubilee of his former company in February 2011 and everybody was glad to see him, he looked fine at that time and spoke about Cranko’s times with so much love and passion. Cragun died on August 6th in a hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Marcia Haydée was with him.

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I first saw Richard Cragun dance Romeo with the Stuttgart Ballet in Paris in 1967.I first met him not long after when I had travelled to Stratford on Avon to see a performance by the Royal Ballet touring Co where my friend David Wall was scheduled to partner Fonteyn in Swan Lake.In fact David was injured and RC was flown in as a replacement.Following the performance I was invited to supper in the famous Dirty Duck by another friend and dancer with the company,Elizabeth Anderton.I was very surprised and delighted to find that we were joined not only by the conductor but also by Fonteyn and RC.Being seated beside MF was of course a great thrill ,being able to chat with her in such a relaxed atmosphere.I also spent a good part of the evening talking to RC and was immediately struck not only by his great charm but also his genuine and warm friendliness.This I was able to build on when,in 1973 after the sudden death of John Cranko,I chose to go and live and work in Stuttgart to offer support to a company so utterly distraught by that tragedy.Ricky remembered me and for the next three years not only was he incredibly kind and generous to me but became,along with Marcia,a very dear friend.Not only was I able to watch him and the company dance virtually every performance over those three years,but also he arranged for me to sit in the Opera House and watch them filming Romeo & Juliet,got me access to rehearsals and to watch class,and would invite me numerous times into the canteen, joining in with the company informally.He knew that I had gone to Stuttgart to support the company and was anxious to help me find work there,even,if possible with the company. Christmases were always open house at his and Marcia's home,and I was always a warmly welcomed guest and visitor

The shock and sadness I felt when I learned from Paul Chalmer of Ricky's sudden death yesterday has really affected me,as I'm sure it has anyone who knew the man as more than just a brilliant dancer. Marcia,I know will be devastated,as will his legion of friends and fans,indeed anyone who had the priviledge of having their lives touched by this dear, supremely gifted and wonderful human being.The world has lost a great artist and I have lost a cherished friend.

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I remember Richard Cragun mostly from his guest appearances with the Royal Ballet, in The Taming of the Shrew and in Song of the Earth - two roles which could hardly be more different, but he was magnificent in both of them. So much life and strength and charisma - it's hard to think that he's gone.

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