Ryan Chartrand

At least it sounds interesting.

“Rodeo,” the Ballet Theatre of San Luis Obispo’s Saturday and Sunday premiere of the 1942 Aaron Copland ballet, tells the story, through dance, of a little ol’ cowgirl in love with a rodeo’s head wrangler. In an effort to impress him, she tries to join the rodeo and we watch her fail miserably when she falls while miming – elegantly – a wild bucking bronco.

Kicked out of the rodeo, the cowgirl is wooed by the champion roper before she gives up her cowgirl persona and pretties herself up with a red dress along with a big red hair bow.

Now that she’s cleaned up, both the wrangler and the roper have it out for her affection – at one point making a tug-of-war rope out of the poor girl – but our cowgirl will have none of it. She gives up the superficial wrangler and decides to knock boots with the roper. WOOOOYEEEEEE!

Sarah Chavez did a great job as the cowgirl and her super exaggerated movements made the funny parts all the more hilarious. She was also quite skilled at prancing, kicking and spinning in boots – bravo.

However, the rancher (whose part was so non-descript that I don’t even know which dancer he was) has three daughters who pretty much stole the whole show.

Played by Isabel Deyo, McKenna Nelson and Sheridan Torgerson, the rancher’s daughters are a little boy crazy but have a whole lot of talent. Isabel in particular shined through the oversized cast.

Unfortunately, the show had way too many dancers on the stage, making it almost impossible to tell which dancer was which. I really doubt you need THAT many people on stage to convince the audience you’re having a rodeo.

Also, why are cowboys waltzing? Not that waltzing when the music denotes a waltz is bad, but it’d be nice if said waltz contained at least some western elements because after all, the ballet is called “Rodeo.”

When we finally do get an old-fashioned hoedown, it’s to the “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” song. So as the dancers did what I assume was an excellent job of getting down, I was preoccupied with visions of giant mountains of steaming beef. Since I’m vegetarian, I found this absolutely nauseating. I understand that the score was written in 1942, but why perform it when that track has become quite possibly one of the most iconic songs ever, and for beef of all things!

The first two acts of the night were significantly better than “Rodeo”; one satirized how ballet shows develop (“Levez le Rideau”) and the other featured a wonderful combination of ballet and ethnic dancing (“Wali Sangara”). The third performance was so insanely boring that I’m not even going to try to sum it up; it was something about lepers.

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