New Steps for a Classic Ballet Featuring Aaron Copland's Music

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Dances by George Balanchine, Justin Peck and Benjamin Miilepied are on the bill in Program 2 at SF Ballet  (Photo: Courtesy of SF Ballet)

Aaron Copland's Rodeo (pronounced row-DAY-oh) is a classic piece of musical Americana that evokes the imagery of a barn dance. Copland wrote it for a 1942 Agnes De Mille ballet that played up the music's western influences; the dancers did their two steps and pirouettes while dressed as cowboys, cowgirls, and farm gals.

Now San Francisco Ballet is featuring choreographer Justin Peck's new take on the music, which is stripped of its western trappings. Peck is a resident choreographer with the New York City Ballet, and a prolific and inventive dancemaker. Peck's productions move big groups around the stage in beautiful patterns and often pair male dancers in romantic duets, which is still shocking to some. Just to emphasize his fresh approach, Peck insists on pronouncing Rodeo without the Spanish influence, so ROW-dee-oh instead of row-DAY-oh

We saw Peck's fabulously busy In the Countenance of Kings last year at SF Ballet. His version of Countenance was set to music from Sufjan Stevens' composition The BQERodeo is part of Program 2 at SF Ballet, titled Bright Fast Cool Blue, which also features dances by Benjamin Millepied (The Chairman Dances, set to music by Berkeley's John Adams), and George Balanchine, one of SF Ballet Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson's mentors. Details for Program 2 running Feb. 13-24 are here.