In 1961, John Cranko was appointed director and choreographer of the ballet in Stuttgart, and a new era began. In the ensuing twelve years Cranko was not only responsible for the most successful chapter of Stuttgart’s ballet history, but also joined the ranks of eminent 20th century choreographers.
At the outset of his leadership he surrounded himself with exceptional dancers such as Egon Madsen, Richard Cragun, Birgit Keil, Ray Barra and Marcia Haydée, who became his muse and prima ballerina. A comprehensive vision focused on showcasing his dancer's unique talents and diversifying the repertoire as well as the use of his exceptional choreographic abilities were the key factors which lead the Stuttgart Ballet to worldwide acclaim under Cranko’s aegis. With three legendary new works he helped to renew the genre of the full-length narrative ballet: Romeo and Juliet (1962), Onegin (1965, new version 1967) and The Taming of the Shrew (1969). A fluid and easily understandable plot-line, masterful dramaturgy, clearly drawn, vivid characters and astounding choreographic diversity are the main features of Cranko’s style. Cranko also created one act masterpieces such as Jeu de cartes, Opus 1 and Initials R.B.M.E. Guest choreographers such as Kenneth MacMillan and Peter Wright were responsible for the further refinement of the Stuttgart aesthetic, as well as dancers from within the company whom Cranko encouraged to choreograph themselves, first and foremost John Neumeier and Jiří Kylián.
A New York tour in 1969 turned into an overwhelming triumph, crowned by esteemed dance critic Clive Barnes employing the phrase “The Stuttgart Ballet Miracle“. The then little known company became THE STUTTGART BALLET – an ensemble firmly positioned in the world’s premiere league of ballet companies. Countless invitations to the world’s great theatres ensued. At home in Stuttgart, Cranko was tireless in his efforts to establish ballet as an autonomous, valid art form, fighting for better pay for his dancers, emancipation from the opera - for which his dancers had to dance - and time on the opera house stage in which to present evenings dedicated solely to dance. The growing international prestige of the Stuttgart Ballet was instrumental in the accomplishment of these goals and Cranko paved the way for ballet to establish itself across Germany.
The Noverre Society, an association of ballet lovers in Stuttgart, supported Cranko substantially and within a few years their collaboration helped turn the Stuttgart public into a highly informed and passionate dance audience, to an extent rarely seen elsewhere. On Cranko’s intiative The “Young Choreographers” evenings were established to provide fledgling choreographers with a platform to show their work. In 1971 Cranko opened the Stuttgart Ballet School (renamed John Cranko School in 1974), laying the foundation for one of the most respected institutions for dance training in the world.