2021/2022 SeasonArtistic Directors > Thordal Christensen

Colleen Neary Artistic Director

With stellar credentials in performing, teaching and staging ballets, Colleen Neary brought with her a wealth of professional expertise and experience when she and her husband, Thordal Christensen co-founded Los Angeles ballet in 2004. Born in Miami, Florida, Neary trained in New York at both the School of American Ballet and Harkness House for Ballet Arts. From 1969 to 1979, she danced as a soloist with New York City Ballet under the direction of George Balanchine and became one of his quintessential ballerinas. Balanchine personally selected Neary to stage his ballets for other companies as a Répétiteur for The George Balanchine Trust- the official guardian of the choreographer’s style and celebrated choreography. From 1975 to 1979, Neary honed her teaching talents as a faculty member at School of American Ballet and as Company Teacher for the New York City Ballet.


Neary’s career path led her to Europe in 1979 when she became Rehearsal Director and Choreographic Assistant at Switzerland’s Zurich Ballet. She also continued to perform internationally as a guest artist. She staged Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote, and Manfred for Zurich Ballet, La Scala de Milan, and Arena di Verona.


In 1984, choreographer Maurice Béjart recruited Neary as Guest Principal Artist and Company Teacher for his Ballet du Deuxième Siècle. She accepted the position of Principal Dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1986 and returned to Europe in 1992 to spend a decade with The Royal Danish Ballet as Rehearsal Director, Company Teacher, and First Instructor in charge of productions. 


Neary and her husband, Thordal Christensen, moved to Los Angeles in 2002. They founded Los Angeles Ballet in 2004, and in 2006, the company debuted a full-length Nutcracker set in 1912 Los Angeles, featuring new choreography by Neary and Christensen. Starting with that inaugural season, Los Angeles Ballet established its signature approach, touring the city with performances at six theaters throughout metropolitan Los Angeles, including the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Royce Hall at UCLA, Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, the Alex Theatre in Glendale, Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, and the Broad Stage in Santa Monica.


Since the opening season, the company’s touring approach has seen audience attendance increase, with favorable response to the company’s distinctive programming blend of ballet classics, new creations, and 20th century masterpieces. Neary and Christensen have choreographed full-length productions of Swan Lake, Giselle, Don Quixote, and Sleeping Beauty for Los Angeles Ballet. Los Angeles Ballet has also commissioned new choreography from rising stars including Mandy Moore, Sonya Tayeh, Travis Wall, Stacey Tookey, Jennifer Backhaus, and Josie Walsh. In addition, Los Angeles Ballet has presented works by Aszure Barton and Alejandro Cerrudo, along with ballets by 20th century masters Jiri Kylian, Jose Limon, and Lar Lubovitch. Neary has staged more than 20 of the Balanchine ballets for Los Angeles Ballet.  


As a Répétiteur, Neary remains in demand far beyond Los Angeles and continues to stage Balanchine ballets for major U.S. and international ballet companies, including Pacific Northwest Ballet, Boston Ballet, Philadelphia Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Ballet West, American Ballet Theatre, Oregon Ballet Theatre, The Royal Danish Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, Mariinsky Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Korean National Ballet, and New National Ballet of Tokyo. In March 2022, Philadelphia Ballet plans to premiere a Balanchine program staged by Neary.  


Neary’s commitment to ballet education also resulted in co-founding Los Angeles Ballet School and Los Angeles Ballet’s many community outreach programs.  


In 2012, Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary received The Lifetime Achievement Award from the McCallum Theatre. In 2021-2022, Los Angeles Ballet presents its 16th Season.

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