The Dance Class

Edgar Degas

French, 1834–1917


The Dance Class


c. 1873

oil on canvas

18 3/4 x 24 1/2 inches

William A. Clark Collection

Accession Number: 


Dancers first appear in Degas’s works about 1870. The next year, he began a series of paintings of ballet rehearsals set in the Paris Opera House on the rue Le Peletier. Of these, The Dance Class is particularly ambitious, with more dancers than in any other of the six hundred or so ballet pictures created by the artist.

The Dance Class offers a glimpse of the ballet rarely seen by outsiders. It shows the dancers not so much rehearsing as preparing to rehearse. Degas made many changes in the Corcoran’s painting. A figure used to stand on the right side near the doorway. Removing the figure changed the focus of the painting, allowing the painter to emphasize the affable anarchy of the rehearsal room.