On the Impossible Sadness of Ballet Plots 

Poetry / Rita Mookerjee 


:: On the Impossible Sadness of Ballet Plots::

after Uwe Scholz’s Firebird and Marius Petipa’s Bayadère 
the dancers are hovering in a radically avian sense 
because power is all about the arms or at least 
that’s what the score tells us. this story of a bird  
on an ascending planet visited by a prince who  
thinks it’s fun to keep the bird from flying, trapping  
it from all angles with cabriole after cabriole. 
to some, this is a dance. in another dizzy, 
departed vision, a dreamer watches the spirit  
of her lover glissade soundlessly. she sheds 
her body in developpé. it is uncommon to witness 
this unshelling of mortal form. from this sustained  
violence, a standing ovation grows which shows  
the company that this appetite for morbidity must be  
sustained. with a collective hum, the audience savors the loss.  

From the writer


:: Account ::

I danced bal­let for 22 years. Upon reflect­ing about the great bal­lets of the 20th cen­tu­ry (Gise­le, Fire­bird, Swan Lake, etc.), it occured to me that almost none of them are hap­py or even neu­tral sto­ries. In fact, a num­ber of them con­tain the odd­ly spe­cif­ic motif of being cru­el to birds. I rumi­nat­ed on this for some time and decid­ed it must be some kind of hyper­dra­mat­ic move to push the stakes and cre­ate a con­text for explo­ration in move­ment which is not the eas­i­est feat in this strict mode of dance. My aim was to cre­ate a poem that mir­rors this prop­er­ty both son­i­cal­ly and the­mat­i­cal­ly. 


Rita Mook­er­jee is an Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Stud­ies at Worces­ter State Uni­ver­si­ty. She is the author of False Offer­ing (Jack­Leg Press 2023). Her poems can be found in CALYX, Cop­per Nick­el, New Orleans Review, the Off­ing, and Poet Lore. She serves as an edi­tor at Split Lip Mag­a­zine, Sun­dress Pub­li­ca­tions, and Hon­ey Literary.