Arnold Spohr (1927-2010)

1998 Lifetime Artistic Achievement (Dance)

This elegant giant of a man, in his talent, his values, and his passionate love of his art, has been one of the guiding geniuses of dance in Canada. His outstanding leadership as Artistic Director of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for thirty years turned a struggling regional troupe into an internationally-renowned awarding-winning company, showcasing such great talents as dancer Evelyn Hart and choreographer Brian Macdonald.

The clarity of his vision has been the key for those who worked with him. His inspiration and dedication to only the finest results took many to heights they never dared dream they could reach. Determined to prove "you can make it here", he remained rooted in Winnipeg, bringing the best and the brightest to work with his dancers, believing - and proving - that "if you work with the best you only get better." A tough taskmaster, sometimes called "a benevolent tyrant", he was uncompromising in his demands for the best; yet never asked more than he was prepared to give. His determination was tempered by his deep respect for his colleagues which they repaid in the trust they learned to place in his judgment.

Above all he never lost sight of his audience and the importance of making dance accessible. "You've got to have someone to relate to ... that's what theatre's about." With a showman's acumen he cleverly mixed the classical and the contemporary, engaging and persuading his audiences to grow beyond the familiar.

Awards and honours have flowed to him, among them Officer of the Order of Canada, the Royal Bank Award, the Molson Prize, and three honorary degrees.