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Founder of NC Dance Theatre dies

By Susan Gilmor
Winston-Salem Journal

Robert Lindgren, founder of North Carolina Dance Theatre and the founding dean of the School of Dance at UNC School of the Arts, died Friday at home in Winston-Salem. He was 89.

Doug Singleton, the Dance Theatre’s executive director, described Lindgren as “an amazing individual. … The company wouldn’t exist without his hard work and vision.”

“Lindgren not only had a strong artistic vision, but he was also savvy when it came to the business side of things,” Singleton said. “He understood that without a strong business plan, it just wouldn’t work.”

Lindgren founded NCDT in Winston-Salem in 1970. It moved to Charlotte in 1990.

Lindgren was a “titan in the dance world,” Alex Ewing, a former UNCSA chancellor, said in a news release.

“He was a revered alumnus of three major ballet companies in his time,” said Ewing, who knew Lindgren for more than 50 years. “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.”

Lindgren served as dance dean from 1965 to 1987, when he left to become general director and later president of the School of American Ballet in New York City. He served there until 1991, when he and his wife, Sonja Tyven, returned to Winston-Salem.

Lindgren danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, the American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet. He performed on Broadway, on national television and in tours sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

Before joining UNCSA, Lindgren and his wife operated their own dance school in Phoenix.

His students at UNCSA included Mel Tomlinson, a member of NCDT who was a soloist with the New York City Ballet and later taught at UNCSA; the late Edward Stierle of the Joffrey Ballet; and Frank Smith of American Ballet Theatre.

“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 founded the Preparatory Dance Program at UNCSA, and he and his wife choreographed the school’s first production of “The Nutcracker.” They continued to oversee the annual production for more than 40 years.

Lindgren served on the Council for Lincoln Center, the dance and choreographer panels of the National Endowment for the Arts, and received a North Carolina Governor’s Award for outstanding contribution to the arts.

Lindgren is survived by his wife of 61 years and two daughters. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Lindgren continued to come to Charlotte to see N.C. Dance Theatre performances when he could, even though he could no longer drive.

“You could just see the joy in his eyes,” Singleton said, “the joy that those memories brought him.”

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