When the ballet Agon premiered in 1957 with African-American Arthur Mitchell partnering white ballerina Diana Adams in a central pas de deux, the barrier-breaking integrated pairing was highly controversial, yet choreographer George Balanchine resisted pressure to recast Mitchell. Photos of that Mitchell/Adams pairing became iconic and the controversy faded over the decades, leaving the ballet to join other Balanchine masterpieces on its considerable merits.
Not every ballet company can perform Agon or other Balanchine ballets without permission from the Balanchine Trust and the presence of a repetiteur who ensures the quality of the casting and performance. Colleen Neary was personally selected by Balanchine as a repetiteur to stage ballets like Agon which she has done for American Ballet Theater, Mariinsky Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet and L.A.’s own Los Angeles Ballet, where she is co-artistic director. In the second offering of LAB’s 2019-2020 season, Agon joins two other Balanchine touchstone ballets Concerto Barocco, set to Bach, and Apollo, which like Agon, has music by composer Igor Stravinsky.
The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica; Wed.-Thu., Feb. 26-27, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 28, 6 p.m.; $68-$114. losangelesballet.org.