The Ballet Class
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, French, 1834 - 1917
In this everyday scene from backstage at the Paris Opéra, a ballet instructor observes two young dancers while a mother sits reading in the foreground. Degas spent a great deal of time in the corridors and rehearsal rooms of the Opéra, where he would have seen mothers like this one managing their young daughters' careers. Girls began official ballet classes at age seven or eight in hopes of becoming premiere dancers by their late teens.