Degas began with cool and objective studies of the ballet dancers in the Paris Opera. In only a few years’ time he advanced beyond the posed, static rendering of his first pictures into a world of movement and casual effect. This painting is broad and free in treatment, gathering many impressions into a remarkably complex design. All the bustle of different movements as caught with an almost camera-like fidelity. Degas cuts off one figure by another, overlapping his forms masterfully, but so shrewdly are they fitted together that there is no confusion.
Respective is dramatically felt in the slanting floor and the diagonal line of dancers on the left, continuing back into the farthest corner, where some of the mothers are watching the class. Here Degas has added something new to art – a surprising view of a little-known world - composed with the grace and authority of an old master.