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May 10, 2013/For Immediate Release, high res. photos available

Media Contact: Lauren Whitaker, 336-734-2891,



Winston-Salem resident was known throughout the world of dance

(Winston-Salem) 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 today 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.

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.  

Robert Lindgren participated as a panelist at UNCSA's  40th Anniversary Founders Forum in 2006.    

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.

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. Funeral arrangements are pending.


As America’s first state-supported arts school, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in music, dance, drama, filmmaking, and design and production. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. For more information, visit