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In Memoriam:

Robert Lindgren

                                                                                             

                                                   

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) family is mourning the loss of Robert A. Lindgren, founding Dean of the School of Dance. Lindgren died May 10 at his home in Winston-Salem. He was 89.

 

A noted performer, teacher, choreographer, administrator and innovator, Lindgren led the School of Dance for 22 years. He left in 1987 to become general director (later, president) of the School of American Ballet in New York City, where he served until 1991. He and his wife, Sonja Tyven, returned to Winston-Salem.

                                        Lindgren and students.  Photo by William Glenesk

During his tenure at the School of the Arts, Lindgren and Tyven choreographed the school’s first production of The Nutcracker and founded the Preparatory Dance Program. He also founded the North Carolina Dance Theatre as a professional affiliate of the School of the Arts.

During his long career as a dancer, Lindgren performed with such companies as the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet. He appeared on Broadway, on national television, and performed on tours sponsored by the U.S. State Department. In 1959, he and his wife opened the Lindgren-Tyven School of Ballet in Phoenix, Ariz., prior to joining the North Carolina School of the Arts in 1965, at the behest of first President Vittorio Giannini.

Chancellor Emeritus Alex Ewing, who knew Lindgren for more than 50 years, said Lindgren was “a titan in the dance world.

“He was a revered alumnus of the three major ballet companies in his time,” Ewing said. “A very special friend to hundreds of students and associates, he will always be loved and treasured here in North Carolina and throughout the entire dance world,” he added.  

Among Lindgren’s students at UNCSA were Mel Tomlinson, who was a soloist with New York City Ballet and returned to teach at UNCSA for four years; the late Edward Stierle, a leading dancer with the Joffrey Ballet; and Frank Smith, a former soloist with American Ballet Theatre who has taught at UNCSA since 1983.

“Bobby Lindgren was not only the founding dean of the School of Dance, but in my years as an NCSA student Bobby was a father figure to many of us and later a mentor throughout our careers," Smith said.

  

                                         Photo by Allie Brown                                          Photo by William Beck     

Lindgren has served on the Council for Lincoln Center; the dance and choreographer panels of the National Endowment for the Arts; and the boards of the arts councils of North Carolina, New York state and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County. He has been a visiting guest artist at Wake Forest University and director of the South Carolina Governor’s School dance program. He received the North Carolina Governor's Award for outstanding contribution to the arts.

In 2006, UNCSA awarded him an honorary doctorate. That year, he served on a Founders Forum panel alongside John Ehle, Phil Hanes, Tom Lambeth, Mary Semans and Robert Ward, as the school celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Born in Victoria, B.C., Canada, Lindgren began studying ballet there with Dorothy Wilson and June Roper. He studied in New York with Maira Yurieva, Anatole Vilzak, Pierre Valdimoroff, and Igor Schwezoff, and with Olga Preobrajenska in Paris.

Robert Lindgren is survived by his wife of 61 years, and two daughters.

 

Lindgren speaking at the school's 40th Anniversary Founders Forum in 2006. Mary Semans is on the right.

Robert Lindgren as Grandfather and Bebe Briggs, his longtime assistant in the School of Dance, as Grandmother in "The Nutcracker"

 

 

OBITUARY

 

WINSTON-SALEM -- Robert Lindgren Dec. 9, 1923 - May 10, 2013

A noted performer, teacher, choreographer, administrator and innovator, Lindgren led the UNCSA School of Dance for 22 years and has left an indelible legacy in the dance world through the creation and nurturing of dance institutions and most especially through the students he trained who carry his passion for dance and the arts into the future.

Born on December 9, 1923 in Victoria, B.C., Canada, Robert Alexander Lindgren began studying ballet there with Dorothy Wilson and then in Vancouver with June Roper. He joined American Ballet Theatre in 1940 and then served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. When he returned to dancing in 1945 he joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo where he met his future wife Sonja Tyven.

During his years with the Ballet Russe he rose to the rank of leading dancer, working with choreographers such as Fokine, Massine, Balanchine and De Mille.

His teachers in New York included Maria Yurieva, Anatole Vilzak, Pierre Vladimiroff, and Igor Schwezoff, and with Olga Preobrajenska in Paris.

Robert Lindgren and Sonja Tyven were married in 1952, the year he became a US citizen. During his long career as a dancer, Lindgren appeared on Broadway in Plain and Fancy, Up in Central Park, Me and Juliet, and on national television shows including NBC Television Spectaculars and as a regular performer on Your Show of Shows. He performed on an international tour of Oklahoma! sponsored by the U.S. State Department. He toured the world in the Great Moments in Ballet concert tour with Alexandra Danilova, Frederic Franklin, and his wife.

In 1957, Lindgren joined the New York City Ballet where he was a soloist. In 1959, he moved to Phoenix, AZ where he and his wife opened the Lindgren-Tyven School of Ballet. After the birth of his two daughters, Lindgren moved to Winston-Salem, NC to serve as the first Dean of the School of Dance at the newly-established North Carolina School of the Arts. During his tenure at the School of the Arts, Lindgren and Tyven choreographed the school's first production of The Nutcracker which became a Winston-Salem holiday tradition.

He founded the North Carolina Dance Theatre, a professional affiliate of the School of the Arts. From 1969 to 1987 he led summer programs in Italy for dance students to study and perform. He established the Preparatory Dance Program along with his wife to train young dancers from the local community. He left in 1987 to become general director (later, president) of the School of American Ballet in New York City, where he served until 1991 when he and his wife returned to Winston-Salem.

Lindgren served on the Council for Lincoln Center; the dance and choreographer panels of the National Endowment for the Arts; the boards of the arts councils of North Carolina, New York State and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, and the Board of Visitors of the School of American Ballet. He was an adjudicator for the Regional Ballet Festivals for many years. He received honorary doctorates from Wake Forest University (1976) and UNCSA (2006.) He was a visiting guest artist at Wake Forest University and director of the South Carolina Governor's School dance program and was instrumental in the founding of the Carolina Ballet in Raleigh.

He received the North Carolina Governor's Award in 1980 for outstanding contribution to the arts.

In 2006 he served on a Founders Forum panel alongside John Ehle, Phillip Hanes, Tom Lambeth, Mary Semans and Robert Ward, as UNCSA celebrated its 40th anniversary.

He was preceded in death by his parents Stanley Lindgren and Irene Betteridge, and his sisters Mary Hicks, Marjorie Hemmingsen and Elizabeth Wade.

Robert Lindgren is survived by his wife of 61 years, Sonja Tyven, and two daughters, Ann (James) LaRosee and Lisu (Walter) Mullen, four grandchildren, Morgan and Meredith Mullen, and Eric and Christopher LaRosee, and several nieces and nephews in the US and Canada.

A funeral service will be held at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Winston-Salem, NC on Thursday, May 16 at 2:00 pm.

Donations to honor the memory of Robert Lindgren may be made to St. Paul's Episcopal Church or the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) Foundation, Inc., 1533 S. Main Street, Winston-Salem, NC 27127, or online at https://uncsa.thankyou4caring.org/pages/donate. Please be sure to indicate "Robert and Sonja Lindgren Scholarship" on the check or online giving form.

Online condolences may be made at www.hayworth-miller.com.


 

Media Coverage:

* The New York Times: Robert Lindgren, 89, Ballet Dancer and College Dean, is Dead

* Winston-Salem Journal: Robert Lindgren, founding dance dean at UNCSA, dies

 


 

Special Thanks to the UNCSA Archives for providing the photos seen on this page. 

Visit the UNCSA Image Archives or the UNCSA Flickr account to see more pictures of Robert Lindgren.