Richard Cragun, a former star dancer with the Stuttgart Ballet and the partner of the prima ballerina Marcia Haydée in a series of classical dance dramas acclaimed internationally in the 1960s and ’70s, including “Romeo and Juliet,” “Eugene Onegin” and “The Taming of the Shrew,” died on Monday in Rio de Janeiro, where he had lived since 1999. He was 67. The Stuttgart Ballet, which announced his death, did not give the cause.
Mr. Cragun, who was born in Sacramento, was 17 when he joined the company in 1962, just as it was beginning to flourish under a new director, John Cranko, who choreographed most of the ballets that Mr. Cragun and Ms. Haydée later came to define by their performances. Before leaving the company in 1996, Mr. Cragun danced the title roles in dozens of dramatic ballets written by Mr. Cranko or his successors, including “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Orpheus,” “The Sleeping Beauty,” “Death in Venice” and “La Sylphide.”
Mr. Cragun’s American roots and athleticism were among the defining elements of what was sometimes called the Stuttgart style, an explosive, colorful form of classical ballet driven by storytelling. Flawless triple-turns in midair were his trademark.
“He possesses tremendous elevation, there is a cumulative pulse and rhythmic beat to his dancing that is enormously impressive,” Clive Barnes wrote in The New York Times, describing Mr. Cragun’s performance in “The Taming of the Shrew,” which the Stuttgart company, based in Germany, brought to the Metropolitan Opera House in 1969. Mr. Cragun, he added, was “a superb dancer, a man in the category of Rudolf Nureyev or Edward Villella.”
Though he also partnered Margot Fonteyn, Gelsey Kirkland and other leading ballerinas of the day, Mr. Cragun’s partnership with Ms. Haydée was his most enduring. They lived together as a couple for about a decade, until 1977, and remained close friends until his death.
No immediate family members are known to survive.
Mr. Cragun, who was born on Oct. 5, 1944, told interviewers that he began taking tap-dancing lessons at 5, and decided to make dancing his profession a few years later, after his father, a college librarian, took him to see “Singin’ in the Rain.” Donald O’Conner, one of Gene Kelly’s co-stars in that movie, was “my first absolute idol,” he told People magazine in 1977.
He later studied at the Royal Ballet School in London. But, he told People, tap remained at the core of his sensibility as a dancer.
“The fact is, I have never given up being and feeling American,” he said. “My chorus-line, vaudevillian background is still very much with me. That great American showbiz feeling is present wherever I go and wherever I dance.”
Steven Wistrich, who performed with Mr. Cragun as a member of the Stuttgart Ballet in the 1970s and is now artistic director of the City Ballet of San Diego, recalled an incident that illustrated Mr. Cargun’s crowd-pleasing show-business instincts. It was in Moscow, in the late ’70s after a performance of “Eugene Onegin,” with Mr. Cragun and Ms. Haydée in the principal roles.
“They are very serious ballet lovers in Moscow, and the audience went crazy, demanding encore after encore, applauding in unison,” Mr. Wistrich said in a phone interview Thursday. Eventually the orchestra left. But the audience kept clapping, demanding more. So Mr. Cragun and Ms. Haydée took another bow, and gave them what they wanted, Mr. Wistrich said: With the house lights up, and the audience on its feet, “They repeated an entire pas de deux. In complete silence.”