Sunday, April 29, 2012

Going to the Rodeo

If you wear a dress, you will get your man.

And if you plan on going to an outdoor show, the temperature will drop and it will rain.

I passed on my ticket to less of a weather wimp and regrouped.

Plan B was a non-brainer; Richmond Ballet and Richmond Symphony were doing an evening called "Wild Wild West."

Given my limited pocketbook, my seat was in the nosebleed section (also known as the Second Dress Center), notable mainly because the girl behind me had a nosebleed during the performance.

The first piece was "Pops Hoe-Down" and featured dancers from the School of Richmond Ballet and their Minds in Motion program.

It's a piece of music I've heard many times and always get a kick out of, with its racing fiddles and oddball assortment of sounds.

Pop goes the weasel.

When the symphony finished the rousing performance, conductor Steven Smith yelled, "Yee-ha!" making for a spirited way to begin an evening in the west.

That was followed by two pieces without dance, John Williams' rousing Overture to "The Cowboys" and the Copland-inspired "Prairie Morning."

With the Williams piece came the next surprise; we were treated to live video of the symphony members playing projected onto a screen on the stage.

We saw close-ups of musicians in cowboy hats, neckerchiefs and Western shirts, which was fun.

But the treat was seeing things like the bassoon, oboe and all kinds of unusual percussion played close up.

Someone must have figured that if we didn't have dance, we needed a visual.

Stunning was Philip Glass' "Runaway Horses" and the ballet's tour de force interpretation of it for five dancers.

Male and female wore brown costumes, the women tossed their hair like manes, and they all galloped around like colts in a field.

This was not your West End blue hair's ballet.

Introducing Rossini's Finale from "Overture to Guillaume Tell," Smith mentioned how much classical music has infiltrated popular culture.

The moment it began, heads began to nod as people recognized it as the Lone Ranger's theme.

In a similar vein, we heard "Wolf's Fiddle," described as "dueling fiddle sections," a rarely heard pleasure, and one that caused my seatmates to want to talk about the differences in violins and fiddles.

Ending the first half was Bernstein's "Suite from The Magnificent Seven," instantly recognizable to the audience.

With its swelling and soaring score, I wasn't surprised to see many of the musicians smiling broadly as they played.

During intermission I scored dessert downstairs and as I ate my chocolate cupcake, a guy approached me.

"Your husband should have told you that you have chocolate on your chin," he said, as if he was concerned about my dirty face.

Honestly, I don't think he was.

Back in my seat with a clean face, we began with Sunrise from "Grand Canyon Suite" before arriving at the evening's highlight.

Agnes de Mille's "Rodeo" set to Aaron Copland's music is one of my all-time favorite ballets, uniquely American, but I hadn't seen it performed in over a decade.

It's amazing how a Jewish guy who lived in Brooklyn managed to capture the essence of the American West so adeptly.

"Rodeo" is subtitled "The Courting at Burnt Ranch," so there was plenty of lovesickness, boys showing off and endless partner changing, all things wooing related.

It is, in simplest terms, a ballet about how to find the right man.

And Copland's score with traditional folk songs throughout is a distinct pleasure to hear performed live.

Likewise the rambunctious ballet, which oozes with boy/girl tension.

The Cowgirl does everything she can think of to try to get the attention of the Head Wrangler while more feminine girls effortlessly get their cowboys.

But does the big, obvious guy win her? Nope, it's the tap-dancing champion roper who eventually steals her heart, scooping her up at the hoe-down.

And kissing her. First tentatively and then good and hard.

No surprise there. She'd finally ditched her cowgirl duds for a bright red dress.

Truth is, with the right dress, a man won't even notice if you have chocolate on your chin.

Or, if he's the right one, he'll just wipe it off and go right on kissing you.

That's how they do it in the wild, wild west.

I know. I saw it at the ballet.

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