When John Cranko came to England from South Africa in 1946 at the age of 19 to learn at the Sadler's Wells School, Ninette de Valois recognized and watered his talent, putting him to work the same year creating ballets for her Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet. She gave him opportunities and encouraged him to create at a time when she herself, though an excellent and very thoughtful choreographer in either a modern or the traditional styles, found herself with less and less time while seeing to her companies, schools and dancers and artists. De Valois made him resident choreographer of the company for the 1950 season. Cranko's earlier work seems to show his comedic bent, e.g. Pineapple Pole (1950), and in his collaboration with Benjamin Britten in Prince of the Pagodas (1957), though by 1958 showed his full dramatic sense in creating his own version of Romeo and Juliet for Milan, which is now in many companies' repertoires. In 1960, he left England to direct and choreograph the Württemberger Staatstheaterballett in Stuttgart, though only 33 years old, after remounting Prince of the Pagodas. His dramatic sense and keenly observed characterization, his talent for telling a story led him on to 'adapt' to, perhaps more to metamorphose into ballet, the literary giants, finding inspiration in unexpected places: Pushkin-Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin (Onegin, 1965) and Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew (1969).
The boronia and the pink eriostemon are at the height of their bloom, most of the wattles are just finishing, the parrots, lorikeets and galahs are busy eating and nesting while the magpies are belligerent again and the air has taken on that warm, sweet, dusty polliniferous fragrance of spring. At least it has in this neck of the woods around 33 degrees South, but it isn't so unlike May in New England. It was when these times came around my piano teacher in school would drop everything to play something with sharps — nothing too hairy, G or D or A major, say. As spring suggests sharps, seeming to say 'up,' so does ballet. In the classical technique one seems to dance always thinking 'up': relevé, sauté, piqué, even in a simple run across the stage or studio, the feet press up, up, up. Even standing in place, the hips tip up and the body seems to lift buoyantly. Even coming down from a jump, the feet and legs push up as the dancer lands. A dancer maintains a respectful and gentle relationship with the ground, as the surfer to the sea. Naturally, it is spring the Australian Ballet announces its new season and we turn our thoughts to a new year of ballet, but those already looking for wildflowers in the Bush need not turn their heads far.