It's not often you see ballet dancers wearing cowboy hats and plaid shirts. 

Actually, it's a first for Ballet Quad-Cities. 

For the company's final performance of its 20th anniversary season, they're taking on "Rodeo" and "Billy the Kid," ballets with music composed by Aaron Copland. 

Although "Billy the Kid" debuted in 1938 and "Rodeo" debuted in 1942, brand new choreography will be unveiled in two performances of "The Wild, Wild West," with live accompaniment from Orchestra Iowa, on Saturday at the Adler Theatre. 

There are no photos or video of the original performances, so Courtney Lyon, the company's artistic director, and Margaret King, ballet mistress, used Copland's scores to recreate the steps. They also read a lot about the Wild West. 

"We have the original music to use, but I don't have knowledge of what happened on stage, so I read and researched enough so I could get a feel for what was happening on stage," Lyon said. 

"Billy the Kid," a 35-minute show broken in seven vignettes, follows the legendary outlaw on his adventures during the 1880s, in which, as the lore goes, the character claimed to kill a man every year he was alive.

"The story is what we think of when we think about old Westerns — the streets were made of dust and everyone rides horseback and has a gun," Lyon said. "So, with the dancers, we have to decide how the body can show things like a lasso or riding on horseback or firing a gun." 

You'd probably recognize the music from "Rodeo," which has appeared in commercials, TV shows such as "The Simpsons," and movies such as "Titantic." 

That translates into high-energy moves in King's "Rodeo." 

"The concept is turning regular square dancing into ballet steps," she said. "We've never done anything like it before and both ballets are different kinds of energies — one is more historical and the other is more strictly about dance." 

The dancers show all of that without heavy props or backdrops — just "lights, tights and dance," Joedy Cook, Ballet Quad-Cities founder and executive director, said. 

"It's a spectacular one-of-a-kind ballet and that's what makes it so exciting," she said. "The music really dictated the ballet." 

Dancers spent over a month — from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days per week — rehearsing the show. 

"It's a celebration of Americana and of our history," Lyon said. "It's a fun era to explore with dance. Usually ballets are about fairies and princesses, but not this time." 


Amanda Hancock is a reporter covering food, arts and entertainment in the Quad-Cities (and beyond).