A former Royal Winnipeg Ballet principal dancer — once celebrated as one the Canada’s finest — was found slain in his Ottawa home on Good Friday.
Ottawa Police Service officers arrived at a two-storey house on Smyth Road in the eastern part of the city around 3 pm on April 15. They found Richard Rutherford, 87, dead in the home he shared with his longtime partner.
Philippe Hebert, 69, has been charged with second-degree murder, Ottawa police said Saturday. He was remanded to custody after a court appearance that morning.
Hebert and Rutherford were a couple for more than 40 years and had been married for at least 10, longtime neighbor Charles Wendt told the Free Press Monday.
The RWB’s artistic director and CEO André Lewis was shocked to hear of the death of Rutherford, who was one of his first teachers at the Winnipeg company in 1975. Lewis didn’t have the chance to see Rutherford dance in person, but he saw video .
“He was a very gracious, very beautiful, very strong — manly at the same time — dancer,” Lewis told the FreePress.
“He was also a very gentle person when he worked with you. The way he delivered his material was always positive, trying to elevate you to the best you could be, rather than scream at you to get to the level he felt you should be at — a very considerate man… a true gentleman.”
Lewis said Rutherford had a lasting impact on ballet in Winnipeg.
“He was a well-known artist who was loved by the community… he was recognized, he was recognizable,” he said.
“He raised the artistic level of the organization. His dancing, his teaching and training just continue (to lift) the standards of the organization.”
Rutherford returned to RWB twice since moving to Ontario — once to coach the professional division in its 1991 performance of the Bitter Weird and again to speak at the school’s 2009 graduation, according to the RWB archives.
Ottawa neighbor Wendt said news of the arrest and Rutherford’s death was a total shock.
“It’s just very tragic,” he said.
Rutherford’s health had been failing in recent years and Hebert had been dutifully caring for the former dancer 24 hours a day, Wendt said. Rutherford’s condition had worsened in recent weeks and using stairs had become difficult.
“Great neighbors — both of them. A loving couple, great people,” Wendt said. “(Hebert) was very concerned for (Rutherford’s) failing health.”
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.
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