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The Rag Mazurka


It is 1924.

The patrons of the Grand Theater of Monte Carlo

Have forgone a night of gambling

To attend the premiere of Nijinska’s Les Biches.

In gaudy jewels, chic flappers, top hats, and tails

They mingle and promenade on the balconies.

As Francis Poulenc’s music sounds,

We see Marie Laurencin’s designs for a soirée on the French Riviera 

The “does” prance in with pert hats, wide eyes, and frothy rose-colored dresses.


Nijinska is warming up in the wings.

With shimmering tilapia eyelids and mauved cheeks,

She takes a sip of champagne. Executing her unctuous tendus

She massages the floor with the soles of her feet.

Long strings of milky pearls cascade down her daring décolleté

And intertwine and loop around her upper arms and wrists.

Her plumed hat bobs, and her flapper shimmies.


It is her time. Her spine lifts, and her chest opens.

Nijinska makes her entrance for the “Rag Mazurka”

With swiveling shoulders and strumpety strides

Traversing the entire width of the stage in chattering steps.

Turning, she indulges in a deep chassé as she drags from her cigarette.

The light melts the apricot hues of her silk charmeuse

As she rides the delicate jazz with low down drags,

Aggressive walks, brilliant batterie,and sinuous glides.

Improvising her solo en ménage, she exaggerates the swing,

And the fling of her off- balance moves.


When, at last, she basks on the blue couch,

She eyes the young studs who strut into her salon.

Waving them to her with her cigarette holder,

She flirts with each during the pas de trois,

Prowls like a panther taunting her prey. Their ménage a trois

Becomes ménage a millions with the audience as voyeur.

After the successful opening, Marie Laurencin writes to Poulenc,

“It appears that Les Biches thrills Les Riches!”


Mary Barres Riggs

Dance Poetry
A comprehensive anthology
Edited by Alkis Raftis
Copyright 2012