Exercises Ordinaire

Turkish Prima Ballerina Gulcan Tunccekic,  1960s

First Position (Bras Bas)

Pull your spine up
to a sky obfuscated
by acoustic tile, fluorescent
lights, and dip your knees
to an earth of scuffed wood.
It is a deference you make,
a concordance you set
between you, and your gravity.
Then, rest.

Second Position (et Demi-Seconde)

Find your breath.
Find a spot in the room
to gentle your eye.
Find a center in yourself
settled by design.
Your hand meets air
stirred awake by your wrist.
Next— observe.

Third Position (Ordinaire)

Connect the strike of a match
to its book, its maker.
Pay attention to your chin
to the rest, to the need
that emboldens the mind—
in a blur of raw words—
to bend your bowed mouth,
to notch arrow-made language—
Stop. Please stop.
Hold your shape.
Now, rise.

Fourth Position (Croisé)

Depend on the grace—
(Is there grace?)
Depend on the memory—
(What say you, memory?)
Depend on the voice—
(Who speaks?)
to hold you still
when instinct tenses,
where resolve quavers,
while you stand
between thought
and action.
And— release.

Fifth Position (en Avant)

Curve one arm, reach
with your opposite hand
for the villagers, clapping;
for the prince, leaping;
for a chimera that no one
can see
roaring behind the curtain.

Sixth Position (Optionelle)
And return—
to the room where a hand
pulls your hip into line
with your knee— a form made
to train your reverence
toward monsters, toward graces
into a semblance, a modicum,
of austere majesty.
The ballet terms in this piece are drawn from three different schools of method/style/thinking about ballet— the Cecchetti Method, the French School, and the Vaganova method. (There are more than three schools of thought on ballet, though.) I studied a slight variation on the Vaganova method for a little while.
PHOTO CREDIT: Turkish Prima Ballerina Gulcan Tunccekic in a rehearsal in the 1960s. Courtesy of Wikimedia, Tunccekic’s son and an unidentified person, who may be family, or may be the photographer— Pamir Kiraner & A. Selen Selçuk.


About Courtenay Bluebird

Courtenay Bluebird is the creator of Bluebird Blvd. and The Bluebird B-Side. She is a published writer, career journalist, and professional photographer who likes books and sweets. She laughs loudly and sincerely both in public and in private.
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  1. Exquisitely rendered, a beautiful piece to read and centre my own self today, I can almost smell that earthy scuffed floor x

    • Anna, you lovely thing, you! Thank you so much. To hear that this poem gave you a way to find your centre gives me a sense of accomplishment. You being nearly able to smell that scuffed-overfloor, puts me over the moon. Sending you good thoughts, good wishes!

  2. I learned the Cecchetti method for about 5 years as a kid. I was never a performer but the awareness of body and posture stayed with me. Lovely post Bluey.

  3. Absolutely lyrical – a ballet of words and images

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