Premiered April 1937, Fox Theatre, Philadelphia. Music by John Powell, Louis Moreau Gottschalk and David Guion. Scenery by Angelo Pinto. Costumes by Salvatore Pinto.
This rousing vignette about rebellion and redemption in rural America was a forerunner of Eugene Loring’s Billy the Kid (1938) and Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo (1942) with its American-infused subject matter, music and designs. Dorothie Littlefield portrayed the wayward farmgirl (known as the Light Lady or Light Maiden) who returns to her hometown (somewhere in America in 1850 we are told) with her “city-slicker” boyfriend to the dismay of townsfolk gathered in a barn for an evening of supper, gossip and dancing. The couple’s brazen display appalls onlookers and draws a rebuke from the deacon. The girl reforms, the boy is tossed out, and community is restored. The prodigal-son theme no doubt appealed to audiences, as did the folksy jigs and rustic rounds, lively melodies on banjo and fiddle, beribboned pigtails and plaid shirts. Barn Dance proved an excellent marriage between choreography and company. During the troupe’s historic European tour, the ballet received 25 curtain calls one evening and their London engagement was extended a full week. The French broadcast a performance of Barn Dance over the radio, and Belgium’s King Leopold demanded an encore after seeing it. Barn Dance was revived by Ballet Theatre in 1944, with Catherine staging it and Dorothie Littlefield and Thomas Cannon reprising their roles on opening night.