Richard Cragun’s lasting impact on Tom Mossbrucker


Friend of arts·meme Tom Mossbrucker writes in memorium of Richard Cragun, the tall and imposing American-born danseur noble who forged a brilliant and distinguished career at Germany’s Stuttgart Ballet in the 1970s.

Cragun, 67, died this past week shocking the dance world. A dancer of his vitality seemed to be eternal.

Cragun was best known for his partnering of the ballerina Marcia Haydée in the story ballets of choreographer John Cranko [Romeo and Juliet, Onegin, The Taming of the Shrew]. Cranko also died too young at 45.

Other significant roles for Cragun came from Kenneth MacMillan, John Neumeier, William Forsythe, Glen Tetley, Jiri Kylian and Maurice Béjart — the who-is-who of European ballet in Cragun’s era.

Obituary from The Guardian here.

Writes Mossbrucker, now artistic director of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet:

“He left an indelible imprint on me as a young dancer in my early 20s when he and Marcia came to dance Cranko’s “Romeo and Juliet” with the Joffrey ballet. I was dancing the role of Paris. Sharing the stage with an artist of this magnitude was an intoxicating and magnificent experience, one I will never forget. The depth of his artistry, his confidence and the ease of his craft was something I had never seen before. I found it deeply inspiring…”

Here’s a video-taste of Cragun’s vivid presence in Cranko’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” Yes it’s all partnering, but Cragun supplies necessary balance — not just physical but psychological, the yin to Haydée’s yang. This is the high-caliber stuff we regularly imbibed during the “dance boom” of the 1970s. 

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