TODAY 19 YEARS AGO, several artists were discovered at the Young Choreographers evening of the Noverre Society. Rolando D’Alesio, today ballet master of the Stuttgart ballet, created Come neve al sole for Bridget Breiner and Friedemann Vogel on June 27th 2001, which was subsequently danced at numerous galas. Among others Alejandro Cerrudo and Peter Quanz contributed further successful pas de deux with Beige and Brown and La route des rencontres. The evening was also made memorable due to Marco Goecke’s Chicks. For the first time, the young man from Wuppertal presented the Stuttgart audience with his unusual aesthetics. He had previously been looking for recognition in vain, but in Stuttgart the former Artistic Director Reid Anderson spotted talent in his feverish dance language. The door to the world of choreography was opened for him and as the company’s resident choreographer he refined his style over the coming years. All three choreographers could launch their careers thanks to the Noverre evening and became sought-after artist in the international dance world.
TODAY 47 YEARS AGO John Cranko died on a return flight from the United States. Two days earlier the company had given his version of Swan Lake in Philadelphia and went on board with the prospect of a summer vacation. John Cranko, to whom the Stuttgart Ballet owes everything, should not return to Stuttgart alive. The sudden death of the director and choreographer left a devastated company. But his legacy weighs more than tragic loss.
When he became director in 1961, he built the foundation on which the Stuttgart Ballet still stands today. What he has achieved in just 12 years remains unbelievable even with today’s perspective: he created an ensemble that was worth his name, fought for better working conditions for his dancers, promoted young choreographers, built the ballet school, which bears his name today, and last but not least, created ballets that are danced not only in Stuttgart, but worldwide. Those who were lucky enough to meet this extraordinary person and artist still miss him. Anyone did not know him personally can feel him through his oeuvre – and in the hallways of the Stuttgart Ballet. His spirit is still there.
ON THIS DAY … Today 51 years ago, the Stuttgart Ballet performed in New York City for the first time. On June 10th, 1969, John Crankos Onegin opened a series of performances running for a total of three weeks at the Metropolitan Opera House. At the invitation of impresario Sol Hurok, the company went to the States knowing that the first performance had to be a success – otherwise they would have to leave again immediately. After a shaky dress rehearsal, the ensemble won over the initially reserved New York audience at the opening night. Thanks to the coverage in the New York Times the “The Stuttgart Ballet Miracle” was proclaimed and the dancers became stars overnight. Marcia Haydée in particular was celebrated as Tatiana (Heinz Clauss as Onegin) and only days later proved her comic talent in The Taming of the Shrew. The total of 24 performances in New York – from Onegin, Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew to one-act ballets such as Jeu de Cartes or Presence – became a triumph and laid the foundation for the worldwide success of the Stuttgart Ballet.
ON THIS DAY 42 years ago Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet about siblings living in claustrophobic isolation premiered in Stuttgart. “Isolated by their environment and living conditions, a family is left alone to rely solely on their intelligence and their passions. With only themselves as playmates, their childhood fantasies become their real world,” wrote MacMillan about My Brother, My Sisters in the cast sheet for the world premiere. The Scottish choreographer was inspired by the biography of the literary Brontë family as well as a story of suffering in a sanatorium. To orchestral works by Arnold Schönberg and Anton von Webern intense relationships unfolded on stage. While Richard Cragun danced the role of the brother, Birgit Keil, Lucia Isenring, Jean Allenby, Sylviane Bayard and Hilde Koch portrayed the sisters. Reid Anderson took on the mysterious role of HE. MacMillan revealed the secret of this ambiguous character only years later in an interview, stating that he regarded the role as his alter ego.
ON THIS DAY 45 years ago Jiří Kylián’s final version of Return To A Strange Land was premiered. A year earlier, the Czech choreographer, who was at that time a dancer of the Stuttgart Ballet, had created a first version dedicated to John Cranko, who had died in 1973. Expanded in 1975, the four-part piece dealt with the transition from one state of being to another. “The material that bodies are made of exists unconsciously in the hereafter. Life is consciousness. Dying is a return to a strange land – the country of origin”, said the choreographer. Though made for a cast of six, there were only three dancers on stage at a time. At the premiere Birgit Keil, Lucia Isenring, Heinz Clauss, Vladimir Klos, Christian Fallanga and William Forsythe circled around each other to Leoš Janáček’s music. Like the whole Stuttgart Ballet, Jiří Kylián stood at a turning point after John Cranko’s death. In 1975, the year that Return To A Strange Land premiered, he was engaged by the Nederlands Dans Theater and went on to lead the company to world fame through his vision and choreography.