San Francisco Ballet’s “Rodeo” is a must-see. From my review in the Chronicle:

“Mirth and whimsy reigned in all of the offerings on San Francisco Ballet’s third program Thursday night, but rarely has the War Memorial Opera House been filled with so much sheer joy as upon the return of Agnes de Mille’s “Rodeo.” Bighearted, unabashedly theatrical and not performed by the company in more than a decade, it’s the kind of work that makes dancers put aside the pyrotechnics and get back in touch with their basic humanity. The whole cast looked as if they were having a hoedown of a time in it.

They just don’t make them like “Rodeo” anymore. Premiered in 1942, de Mille’s tale of a loveless cowgirl was created when ballet in this country was reaching toward realism and American themes, when dance could be as much about storytelling as about steps. Today’s choreographers would blush at the idea of ranch hands chass?ing around on invisible horses. And yet still today when the waddle-legged dancers skip across the stage, we see the broncos and the dust.

Just as magical is Aaron Copland’s stirring score, with the orchestra sounding appropriately mythical under Martin West’s baton. Little wonder “Rodeo” is also enjoying renewed popularity in New York, as part of American Ballet Theatre’s current season.

In recent years, San Francisco Ballet, increasingly more accustomed to dancing Balanchine and the 19th century classics, has looked self-conscious in this earnest kind of early 20th century work. To get a truly chilling take on Lew Christensen’s “Jinx,” for instance, you had to cross the bay to Oakland Ballet. But Thursday the dancers, directed by noted past Cowgirl Christine Sarry, seemed to relish the change of mode. ”

For the full review, click here.

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