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Robert Lindgren and Sonja Taanila Collection

Identifier: BRSCA-RLST-056
The Robert Lindgren and Sonja Taanila Collection contains black and white photographs, promotional materials, rehearsal schedules, and other memorabilia from their careers with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. The Collection also includesitems from his career as the Dean of the North Carolina School of the Arts.


  • Record Keeping: 1923 - 2013

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

The Collections are available to researchers by appointment. Please email to make arrangements.

Conditions Governing Use

The Ballets Russes Special Collections and Archive holds the physical rights only to most materials. Reseachers must secure written permission from the Archive to publish archival materials. Researchers assume all responsibility for conforming to copyright laws and for correctly citing the source of the archival material.


2 Box

Biographical / Historical

Robert Lindgren was born in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, on December 9, 1923. His first teacher was June Roper. At 19, Robert was ready to make dance a career. He was invited by choreographer, Leonide Massine to join the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. While waiting for his visa, he worked for Boeing Aircraft Company building PBY flying boats. However, Massine left Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo to join Ballet Theatre (now called American Ballet Theatre). Massine invited Robert to join him at Ballet Theatre from 1942 to 1943. With Ballet Theater, Robert had the opportunity to dance in Antony Tudor's Gala Performance, Romeo and Juliet, and Pillar of Fire. He also danced in Massine's Cappricio Espanol, Boutique Fantasque, Le Tricoene (The Three Cornered Hat), Aleko , George Balanchine's Errante, Eugene Lorning's Billy the Kid, and many other classics. After his discharge from the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1944, Robert joined Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

Sonja Tyven was born in New York City on May 29, 1928. She began her early training with Vecheslav Swobada and Maria Yurieva. Later she studied with Igor Schwezoff in New York City and Olga Prebrajenska in Paris. Sonja also studied with George Balanchine at the School of American Ballet. In 1945, she joined Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and stayed until 1952. Her sister Gertrude was also a member. To avoid confusion, she used the name Sonja Taanila while with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Sonja danced in many ballets including Les Sylphides, Carnival, Les Elves, Scheherazade, Prince Igor, Giselle, Swan Lake, and Gaite Parisienne. While with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Sonja met Robert Lindgren and they were married in 1952.

Sonja Tyven's Broadway credits included Me and Juliet, Oklahoma, and On Your Toes. She also danced in a number of television shows among them Max Liebman Spectaculars, and Omnibus, choreographed by Agnes de Mille. With her husband, they danced with Alexandra Danilova's Great Moments of Ballet, adding more ballets to her credits. In 1957, Sonja joined The New York City Ballet. Together, Robert Lindgren and Sonja Tyven opened a ballet school, Lindgren-Tyven School of Ballet, in Phoenix, Arizona. In 1965, when Robert moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina to head the North Carolina School of the Arts (NCSA), his wife Sonja took on the position as Director of the Richmond School of Ballet, as well as Ballet Mistress of the North Carolina Dance Theater. Eventually Sonja became director of the Pre-Program NCSA. From 1987 - 91, Sonja taught ballet at the YMHA on 92nd Street in New York City. Lincoln Kirsten, upon retiring, asked Robert to succeed him as president of the School of American Ballet. Among the many awards given to Robert Lindgren are The North Carolina Governor's Award for outstanding contribution to the Arts, a Honorary Doctorate with a PhD of Fine Arts.

Mr. Lindgren died in 2013. Sonja Lindgren died in 2018.
Robert Lindgren and Sonja Taanila Collection
Jessie Hopper. Edited by Jacob Hertzel.
2012 and 2015
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Repository Details

Part of the Ballets Russes Special Collections and Archive Repository


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