In 1942, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, which, during the European war, toured in exile extensively across the American heartland, en route picked up marvelous dancers and dances. Following the success of Eugene Loring’s Billy the Kid (1938) for Ballet Caravan, the Ballet Russe invited Agnes de Mille to create yet another Americana-themed work, and thus emerged Rodeo (set to a commissioned music by Aaron Copland). De Mille herself danced the lead role of the “Cowgirl” at her ballet’s premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House on October 16, 1942. This feisty woman made a mass popular ballet hit. It was Rodeo that led Rodgers and Hammerstein to engage de Mille for Oklahoma! (1943) and with Graham’s unveiling of Appalachian Spring (in 1944, again to a Copland score), a golden age of American classical and theatrical dance blossomed, infused with our own aesthetic and folk themes. Concurrently, Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free (1944) for American Ballet Theatre and Jack Cole’s The Wedding of a Solid Sender (1943) in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1943 on Broadway further interpolated the use of American themes in the high realms of American dance.
Read our writing about the Martha Graham Dance Company dancing Rodeo in its world premiere at The Soraya, September 30, 2023.
Martha Graham Dance Company | The Soraya | Saturday September 30