The writer Edmond de Goncourt wrote in his journal in 1873: "Yesterday I spent the afternoon in the studio of a painter named Degas. After many attempts, many bearings being taken in every direction, he has fallen in love with the modern and, in the modern, he has cast his choice upon laundresses and dancers."
In the 1870s Edgar Degas became fascinated with ballet dancers, paying frequent visits to the classes where the Opèra's ballet master, Perrot, trained groups of young girls. He used these excursions to work out new ideas for various paintings or lithographs or to rework ideas that he had used before. In this group of three quick sketches, Degas concentrated on the gestures and expressions of the ballet master and his pupil, several of which he later re-used. At the left Perrot directs the dancers as he does in a painting known as Répétition de Ballet (Ballet Practice). In the center, a tall dancer faces left with her head bent forward. Perrot appears again on the right in the same position as in two earlier paintings, Classe de Danse (Dance Class) and Examen de Danse (Dance Exam).