The Stuttgart Ballet mourns the passing of Dieter Graefe

Dieter Graefe, former Administrator of the Stuttgart Ballet and holder of the rights to John Cranko’s ballets, passed away in Stuttgart on Saturday, April 20. As Cranko's heir, he ensured that, after the South African-British choreographer’s unexpected early death, his works were performed by companies worldwide and became classics of the international ballet repertoire. Thanks to Graefe, Cranko's masterpiece Onegin, for example, is one of the most popular ballets in the world today.

Dieter Graefe. Foto Hannes Kilian.

Dieter Graefe. Foto Hannes Kilian.

Dieter Graefe was born in Königsberg in 1939 and trained as a shipping agent in Hamburg. In 1962, one year after Cranko’s arrival in Stuttgart, he became Cranko's private secretary, handling German correspondence and organizational tasks for him. In 1966, Graefe was appointed Cranko’s administrative assistant and scheduler at the Stuttgart Ballet/ Staatstheater Stuttgart, where he was entrusted with administrative tasks for the ballet company and for John Cranko in addition to organizing tours. After Cranko's death in 1973, Graefe, together with ballet mistress Anne Woolliams, was entrusted with the provisional direction of the Stuttgart Ballet until Glen Tetley became director a year later. Under Tetley, Graefe remained Administrator, during Marcia Haydée's tenure as director he was promoted to deputy artistic director of the Stuttgart Ballet. In 1985 he moved to Canada with his life-partner Reid Anderson; in 1996 they both returned to Stuttgart when Anderson assumed the directorship of the Stuttgart Ballet. 

In his will, Cranko had named his long-time friend and assistant as the heir to his estate and the rights to his ballets. Since then, Graefe has granted the licenses for Cranko's works outside of Stuttgart and Munich. Through decades of careful staging by highly qualified choreologists and coaches - most of whom had worked directly with Cranko or with the dancers in the original casts - he ensured that Crankos pieces were performed true to the work. Over the last 50 years, many works by Cranko but especially his three great narrative ballets Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew and, above all, Onegin were and are danced by many renowned companies worldwide, including the Bolshoi Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet, La Scala Ballet in Milan, the American Ballet Theater, the National Ballet of China and the Tokyo Ballet, to name but a few. It is thanks to Graefe’s careful, dedicated administration that Cranko's ballets are still so sought after and widely performed outside of Stuttgart today. In 2020, together with Reid Anderson, Graefe founded the John Cranko Trust which already receives all royalties - and in future all the other income - from Cranko's estate with all proceeds going to the John Cranko School. 

Tamas Detrich, Artistic Director of the Stuttgart Ballet, comments on this loss of a member of the Stuttgart Ballet family: "Dieter Graefe's contribution to the Stuttgart Ballet and the work of John Cranko can hardly be measured. He was involved in building up our company under John Cranko and through his subsequent work as rights holder of the works outside Stuttgart, these wonderful ballets created here are still danced by the world's most renowned companies today. We owe him a great deal and will miss him very much."

In accordance with his wishes, Graefe will be interred privately; there will be no public funeral service. He will be remembered by those who knew him well as an incredibly generous man with a marvelous and infectious sense of humor.


Source: Stuttgart Ballet

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