Appropriate for families and ballet lovers of all ages, romance and joyful fun prevail in The Sarasota Ballet's December performances featuring Sir Frederick Ashton's Les Patineurs, Christopher Wheeldon's The American, and Agnes de Mille's Rodeo for three performances in the Sarasota Opera House. Les Patineurs was introduced to Sarasota audiences in 2008 receiving rave reviews and praise from New York Times dance critic, Alistair Macaulay. In it Ashton has created a magical world at play with scenes commonly found in an ice-rink over Christmas season. The characterization is vivid with couples romantically skating hand in hand, the bravura "blue boy" dazzling the crowd with his dare devilish spins, beginners clinging onto whatever is in front of them to avoid the humiliation of falling on ice. All of these moments are wrapped up in gorgeous 1930s scenery and Edwardian fur-trimmed outfits. The Sarasota Ballet proudly presents the Sarasota premiere of Agnes de Mille's Rodeo set to a score by Aaron Copland evoking life in the pioneer West. Rodeo is the touching story of a tomboy in search of love. The cowgirl, who de Mille admitted was based on herself as a young woman, is a misfit among the men and women in her community. De Mille has said, "She acts like a boy, not to be a boy, but to be liked by the boys." Hers is a bitter lesson, but she learns it at the ballet's denouement when she puts on a dress and goes to the hoe-down. She finds her man, and she finds him through dancing. The ballet features bravura dancing for the men in a unique style derived from horseback riding and cattle roping. A work by turns robust and tender, full of optimism, Rodeo is a celebration of the pluck and spirit of the American character. Christopher Wheeldon's The American, set to the music of Antonin Dvo?ak composed during his American sojourn, is one of the early works that established Christopher Wheeldon as one of the most sought after choreographers today. It was premiered in 2004 by Carolina Ballet and Images of Dance Company in London. In 2010, The Sarasota Ballet introduced this ballet to its audiences. The open spaces and tranquility of the American west inspired Dvorak, and subsequently Wheeldon as reflected in his fluid choreography.