Rodeo is a ballet score written by American composer Aaron Copland in 1942. It was originally created for a string orchestra but was later modified for a full symphony orchestra. The ballet consists of five sections: "Buckaroo Holiday", "Ranch House Party", "Corral Nocturne", "Saturday Night Waltz", and "HoeDown". The symphonic version omits "Ranch House Party", leaving the other sections relatively intact.

The original ballet was choreographed by Agnes de Mille for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, a dance company that moved to the United States during World War II. In order to compete with the rival company Ballet Theatre, the Ballet Russe commissioned the American choreographer out of a career of relative obscurity. De Mille was given considerable creative control, choosing Aaron Copland as the composer after being impressed by his previous ballet, Billy the Kid. Though Copland was initially reluctant to compose "another Cowboy ballet," De Mille successfully persuaded him that this show would mark a significant departure from his previous work. As de Mille found herself occupied with instructing a highly international cast in the mannerisms of American cowboys, Copland recommended that Oliver Smith design the sets, in what would prove to be a prescient action. De Mille herself played the lead, and the premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House on 16 October 1942 received 22 curtain calls. The other principal dancers in the cast included Frederic Franklin and Casimir Kokitch. Though de Mille herself was not entirely pleased with the premiere, it was attended by Rodgers and Hammerstein, who approached de Mille afterward to request that she choreograph their upcoming production of Oklahoma!. Noted among many reviews was de Mille’s highly evocative choreography, described as "film sensibility" and renowned for its realism. The original production went on to lead a successful tour, though producers were hardpressed to replicate the skill with which de Mille had portrayed the lead. De Mille retained veto power over any casting of the ballet, which often sent companies to extremes in order to find a worthy Cowgirl. Meanwhile, Copland arranged the music as a symphonic suite for orchestra titled Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo, which consisted chiefly of removing "Ranch House Party" and minor adjustments to the final two sections. With the middle section removed, the composition resembled the symphonic form with an ambitious opening movement, slow movement, minuet and finale. In this form, Rodeo found even greater success, premiering at the Boston Pops in 1943.

Structure and analysis
The circumstances surrounding the composition of Rodeo led to it having a number of features that set it apart from other Copland compositions. Though many of Copland's works incorporate traditional American folk tunes, Rodeo is

unique in that it leaves them quite intact in the score, with very little alteration on the part of the composer. This is likely attributable in part to De Mille's control over the work. Indeed, she had already blocked the entire show before Copland had written a single note, and also transcribed several folk tunes, including "Old Paint", for Copland in addition to her blocking notes. The well-known main theme of "Hoe-Down" is based on a unique version of the American folk song "Bonyparte" or "Bonaparte's Retreat," played by Salyersville, Kentucky fiddler William Hamilton Stepp, which was recorded in 1937 by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress. A meticulous transcription by Ruth Crawford Seeger of that performance appeared in Lomax's 1941 book, "Our Singing Country." Though it was later criticized for the heteronormativity of the storyline, many of the themes are autobiographical for De Mille. An extremely skilled dancer, the choreographer nonetheless felt awkward in the offstage world, and the Cowgirl's unwillingness to subscribe to traditional gender roles mirrors De Mille's experience.

"Buckaroo Holiday" "Sis Joe"
Rodeo opens with a grand fanfare, vamping until R5-6, where the woodwinds introduce the Cowgirl's theme. This quiet theme continues until the Rodeo theme begins at R11, presenting a highly rhythmic motif that evokes the trotting of horses. The lone Cowgirl seeks the affections of the Champion Roper, who is rather taken with the more feminine Rancher's Daughter. At R13, the cowboys enter to the railroad tune of "Sis Joe", envisioned by de Mille as an event "like thunder," which Copland obliges with heavy drums and brass. As the cowgirl seeks the attention of her quarry, she mimics the surrounding cowboys, reflected in the heavy use of the tune "If He’d Be a Buckaroo" in this section, beginning at R21. The theme is repeated by various solo instruments before being realized in triple canon by the full orchestra at R29. After a brief return to the quiet Cowgirl theme, the fanfare returns at R36. "Sis Joe" reappears at R37, before the entire orchestra triumphantly plays "If He'd be a Buckaroo" at R42.

"Corral Nocturne"
At least partially written by Leonard Bernstein[2], the "Corral Nocturne" invokes the lovesick musings of the Cowgirl, portrayed rather lyrically by Copland's heavy use of oboe and bassoon. In writing this scene, de Mille noted that "She run[s] through the empty corrals intoxicated with space, her feet thudding in the stillness."[3] The Head Wrangler discovers her in the darkness, but she does not come toward him as the Rancher's Daughter would. Confused, he exits with the Rancher's Daughter.

"Ranch House Party" (ballet only)
The subsequent "Ranch House Party" was envisioned by de Mille as "Dance music inside. Night music outside." Indeed, the section opens with a honkytonk theme played on a piano, accompanied by a more thoughtful clarinet. The Cowgirl finds herself between the Champion Roper and the Wrangler, who are again attracted to the Rancher's Daughter. "Corral Nocturne" is recalled at the end of this section, as the Cowgirl finds herself quite alone

"Saturday Night Waltz"
While the "Texas minuet" of the "Saturday Night Waltz" plays at R2 (to de Mille’s transcribed version of "I Ride an Old Paint" - also known as "Houlihan") the cowboys and their girls pair off. Expectant of a partner and finding none, the Cowgirl is alone until the Champion Roper approaches her, having failed best the Wrangler in winning the affections of the Rancher's Daughter. Both this section and the "Corral Nocturne" feature Copland's characteristic economy of sound, where he uses solo instruments in lieu of entire sections.

Finally, the "Hoe-Down" opens by vamping the first bar of the well-known folk tune "Bonaparte’s Retreat", which will become a major theme of the section. After a reprisal of the Rodeo theme, the theme proper begins at R5 in the strings, as the horns play a simple counterpoint. Instead of building to a climax, this section segues into "McLeod's Reel", performed by various solo instruments at R12 and R14. At R13, Copland briefly introduces the Irish theme "Gilderoy" in the clarinet and oboe. Building toward the end, Copland reintroduces "Bonaparte's Retreat" at R16 in canon, before returning to the Rodeo theme at R17, which slows into the climactic kiss between the Cowgirl and the Wrangler immediately before R19. "Bonaparte's Retreat" is then resumed by the full orchestra, which ends the piece with a grand fanfare.