Robert Skafte Tribute

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Alturi Project Strategist

Robert,
Beautiful dancer,
Young and old.

Kind,
With stories untold.
Handsome and held space,
An unworldly human embrace.

He is faithful to his soul,
A sweet essence completely whole.

Minneapolis mourns artist Robert Skafte, a gay, queer dancer whose light shines no longer. On Friday, December 8, 2023, a suspect senselessly and lethally attacked Robert while he was working at the Oak Grove Grocery. Robert’s life and immense contributions made Minneapolis a better place to live economically, culturally, and socially.

Myron Johnson welcomed Robert to his provocative dance company, Ballet of the Dolls (the Dolls), in 1994. While Robert’s dance career spanned decades, his longest run was with the Dolls. Robert joined the Dolls when it performed at the Loring Playhouse and played a vital role in renovating the Ritz Theater, which became the Dolls’ new NE home in 2006. Robert danced with the Dolls until its closure in 2014 and continued dancing with other artists beyond. Everywhere Robert and the Dolls performed, the communities benefited economically, becoming the new “it” community. Myron elucidates, “Robert believed in Minneapolis. He was always proud to be a part of the arts community and took his place very seriously. He cherished any person who could match his passion for art, community, the environment, and humanity, and he had boundless love for working hard at all of it.”

Robert greatly influenced the culture of Minneapolis through his imaginative artistry. Robert helped create fresh and innovative pieces or reinvent the classics. Robert’s dedication and hard work significantly elevated the quality of every performance he gave. He contributed his entire skill set and treated everyone respectfully, making his influence even more profound. As a result of his work ethic, the Minneapolis art community enjoyed an abundance of original works never seen before or after. Robert’s artistic contributions were instrumental in hundreds of live performances. Zhauna Franks, a dear friend and decades-long creative collaborator, illuminates, “Robert brought his artistry to everything he touched. He uplifted his communities both on and off stage with his undeniable light. None of us could accomplish the things we made in such nuanced ways without him.” 

Robert’s social contributions were vast and challenging to capture fully. He was an active member of the LGBTQ and dance communities, a cherished part of his neighborhood, a gardener, and a leader in the farmers market communities. Robert’s social effect was so significant that it is impossible to recognize all individuals affected by his loss in Minneapolis and beyond. Many communities are still struggling to cope with the loss of such a beloved member. Stephanie Fellner Grey, long-time dance partner and close friend, enlightens, “My world has dimmed without him here. Without trying, he was the calmest of calms and the brightest of brights. Robert was all-knowing without knowing he knew. He melded the innocence of youth perfectly with the wisdom of many lives lived. His soul’s last earthbound journey is complete. His open, soft place to land is now empty for us left here.” 

Rest in light, Robert.

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