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Memorable Manitobans: Arnold Theodore Spohr (1923-2010)

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Arnold T. Spohr
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Dancer, choreographer, artistic director.

Born at Rhein, Saskatchewan on 26 December 1923, the fifth of seven children born to cleric George Spohr and Hermine Schalme, he moved with his family to Winnipeg in 1930. At age 20, he obtained a teaching certificate in music and physical education. His love for dance was sparked when he was persuaded by his sister to see a Winnipeg performance of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. He joined the Royal Winnipeg Ballet as a dancer in 1945. Described as “obsessive, uncompromising and mercurial”, he was the company’s Artistic Director for 30 years, starting in 1958, during which time he developed it from a small, regional troupe to an award-winning one of international renown. He was offered prestigious positions elsewhere but turned them all down to remain in Winnipeg. He retired in 1988.

In recognition of his accomplishments, he received honorary doctorates from the University of Victoria, University of Manitoba (1970) and University of Winnipeg (1983). He received the Centennial Medal, the Governor-General’s Performing Arts Award, the Molson Prize, the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal (1977) and the Canada Dance Award. He was inducted into the Order of the Buffalo Hunt (1969), Winnipeg Citizens Hall of Fame (1991), Order of Manitoba (2000) and Order of Canada (2004).

He died at Winnipeg, unmarried, on 12 April 2010.

See also:

An Instinct for Survival: Arnold Spohr and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet by Michael Crabb (Toronto: Dance Collection Danse Presses, 2001).


Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 13 April 2010.

“Guts and glory” by Alison Mayes and Morley Walker, Winnipeg Free Press, 13 April 2010, page C1.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 23 December 2014

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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