Agon– the complete ballet with the original cast featuring Diana Adams, Todd Bolender, Jillana, Arthur Mitchell, Richard Rapp, Francia Russell, Roy Tobias, and Violette Verdy.
Arthur Mitchell has said that when he and Adams first performed the “Agon” duet, it looked different from today’s renditions. For dancers of that period, the steps were very difficult, he said, and Adams was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to do them. This made her seem vulnerable. She might also have been nervous about the duet’s sexual frankness. In a lift, she goes into a front-facing split that I doubt had ever been seen on a ballet stage before. But combined with this bluntness was a strange, hushed tenderness. In 1956, Balanchine’s wife, Tanaquil Le Clercq—who, with Adams, was his lead ballerina—was stricken with polio. He left the company for a year, to stay by her side. He spent hours doing physical therapy with her. When he returned to N.Y.C.B., he made “Agon,” in which Mitchell often takes Adams’s feet and legs in his hands, guiding them, placing them. The duet, then, was a strange package of fear and intimacy and eroticism, and all this was made more daring—or in 1957 it was—by the fact that Mitchell is black and Adams was white.- Joan Acocella (The New Yorker- April 27, 2015)
Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer- A Retrospect On A Life Devoted To Dance