Spohr, Arnold Theodore
Arnold Theodore Spohr, dancer, choreographer, teacher, director (b at Rhein, Sask 26 Dec 1927, d at Winnipeg 12 April 2010). Arnold Spohr was one of the most respected and best-loved figures in Canadian ballet. He led the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for 30 years and helped it attain its position as one of Canada's most internationally acclaimed performing arts ensembles. Spohr trained in London (England), New York City and Hollywood. He danced with the then Winnipeg Ballet from 1945 to 1954, becoming a principal dancer. In London he partnered the famous ballerina Alicia Markova.
Interim director of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in 1957, Spohr was officially appointed artistic director in 1958. He set about restoring the company's vitality following the prolonged period of crisis that followed the destruction of the company's premises by fire in 1954. Through frequent travel at home and abroad, Spohr sought out interesting, often emerging choreographers to help construct a distinctive repertoire and skilfully blended programs of short ballets that would show off the dancers to advantage and please varied audience tastes. Under Spohr the company undertook many successful domestic and foreign tours, becoming noted for its accessibility, exuberance and willingness to appear in smaller communities and on stages large and small.
Spohr's concern for the training of dancers led him in 1970 to establish a professional division of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School under the leadership of David Moroni which, with the emergence of such dancers as Evelyn Hart and David Peregrine, enabled the company to successfully stage an increasing number of evening-length classic ballets. For many years Spohr also helped direct the ballet summer school of the Banff Centre for Continuing Education. He retired in June 1988 but retains an advisory role with the title artistic director emeritus. In 1993 he began working as associate artistic director of the Ballet Jörgen in Toronto.
Among Spohr's honours are the Order of Canada (1970), elevated to Companion in 2004, the Molson Prize (1970), the Dance Magazine Award (1982), the Diplôme d'honneur of the Canadian Conference of the Arts (1983), the Royal Bank Award for Canadian Achievement (1987), and the Governor General's Performing Arts Award (1998). He was awarded the Order of Manitoba in 2000.