At the Heart of Creativity

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  • Title: At the Heart of Creativity: John Cranko and His Genius in Two Cities
  • Author(s): Bruce McCormick
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Common Ground Open
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Arts Theory and History
  • Keywords: Art History, Creativity, Sense-Making, Ballet, Dance
  • Volume: 13
  • Issue: 4
  • Year: 2018
  • ISSN: 2326-9952 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2327-1779 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: McCormick, Bruce . 2018. "At the Heart of Creativity: John Cranko and His Genius in Two Cities." The International Journal of Arts Theory and History 13 (4): 33-46. doi:10.18848/2326-9952/CGP/v13i04/33-46.
  • Extent: 14 pages


Creative genius is often associated with a singular individual, but what surrounds and supports an artist can be just as vital to her/his success. South African choreographer John Cranko is known for transforming Stuttgart, Germany, from being the home of a respectable, regional ballet company into a ballet capital of international standards. He did this while leading the company from 1961 until his untimely death in 1973. Between 1968 and 1972, however, he was also the chief choreographer of the Ballet of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and his efforts there were futile. This paper examines Cranko’s relationships with the management, collaborators, and dancers in each theater in search of reasons as to why his leadership was ineffective in Munich while it flourished in Stuttgart. Drawing from personal interviews with Cranko’s dancers, friends, and colleagues, it will be argued that although Cranko’s creative genius was present in both cities, a lack of managerial trust, a politicized working environment, and an absence of willing collaborators in Munich led to the loss of Cranko’s artistic voice and personal desperation.