The Dance Lesson is a horizontal oil on canvas painting by Edgar Degas, created in 1879. It is part of a series of approximately 40 works executed in this unusual format. Degas experimented with the horizontal layout in his racing scenes to convey a sense of panoramic space, which he further employed in his ballet scenes.
This painting marks the starting point of ballet themes in Degas’ works. His pastel drawings of dancers are among his most iconic creations. “The Dance Class” is another artwork by Degas on the subject of dance and ballet techniques.
Through “The Dance Lesson,” Degas portrays the daily routine of a ballerina’s training, internalizing the motions and choreography of the dance. The image is set in a dimly lit rehearsal hall, highlighting the grace and poise of the dancers. The viewer is drawn into the intimate structure of the training, where meticulous attention is paid to the slightest details of the dance.
Degas’ mastery of techniques, such as his use of light, shading, and composition, tells the story of the personalities and the dynamics of the ballerina’s subculture. His expressions ultimately illustrate the tenacity, elegance, and beauty of the ballerina’s life.