Rodeo-Bull Rider w800pix

Phoenix’s Rahean Hart rides Salt River Rodeo Company bull Tonto.

The action’s fast and furious.

Rodeo-Dance w800pix

A girl dances in the stands on Saturday afternoon.

But in truth, Payson’s 137th World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo is a dance, with steps perfected through a long history of sweat and blood and grace. The bulls and men and horses and women and steers and teens have learned the music and partnered so seamlessly, that you cannot decide sometimes who leads and who follows.

Rodeo-Mutton Bustin' w800pix

A girl hangs on as long as she can in mutton bustin’.

But watch closely, for the song ends in seconds.

Then queens swing around the arena on steeds.

Rodeo-Steer Riding w800pix

A steer gets good air with a boy aboard.

Cowboys leap off horses in a tap dance duet as steers do their best to escape.

Kids get their time on the dance floor, jitterbugging with sheep and steers.

Two men perform a synchronized fox trot with horses, ropes and calves.

Rodeo-Steer Wrestling w800pix

Gary Gilbert of Springtown, Texas competes in steer wrestling.

A clown performs a jig.

Bronc and riders do the boogie-woogie.

The Historical Cowgirls Foundation Drill Team forms a chorus line.

Rodeo-Temperature Check w800pix

COVID-19 led to mandatory temperature checks and waiver agreements for all who entered.

Mounted cowboys tango with wild-eyed calves.

Women and their horses lean into a barrel ballet.

And finally, the daring riders atop the furious bulls rave in the mosh pit as AC/DC blasts through the speakers.

Yes, it’s all a dance.

Rodeo-Tie Down w800pix

Ty Pablo of Standing Rock, N.M. competes in tie down roping on Saturday afternoon.

A sweaty, dangerous, achingly graceful dance in the dirt.

How about one more turn around the dance floor?

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