Degas was captivated by the beauty and grace of ballerinas that he incorporated them into more than half of the pieces he ever created. Edgar Degas is the most famous artist to incorporate dance into his work. He is also one of the most iconic Impressionism painters of his era who contributed to the art movement that progressed the field into modern day art (see also Caillebotte, Bazille and Sisley). The painting showcases a woman beginning to dance. She is dressed in a classic romantic tutu that flares outwards around her waist. Rather than having it fall into a classic horizontal shape, her dress falls into a bell curve.
The ruffles of the tutu are painted with linear brush strokes going outwards. While Impressionism art is coined for using small swift brush strokes and ignoring outlining figures, Degas steers away form that principle when he paints tutus. He instead uses long brush strokes and then outlines their form with a realist touch. He uses an impeccable amount of detail when creating these tutus as showcased in the portrait. Even though the artist uses pastels, he is still able to carefully depicts all of the characteristics of the dress. While the prominent colour of the dress is green, he still bleeds shades of orange into the skirt of the dress. This gives the dress some contrast apart from the light green shade.
In regards to the top of the dress, Degas often depicted a classic off the shoulder cut that exposed the top of the chest and back. This adds an element of femininity as it exposes the colour bones and bust of the female body. This classic cut was also the most popular style of ballerina dresses in France during the 19th century, nearing the end. Degas paints the woman’s top in a white ruffled material, with hints of the tangerine orange. The artist continues this orange shade onto the woman’s bust to both add some contrast and connect the orange shade throughout the work. Alongside, Degas used a darker peachy colour to paint the woman’s skin. Rather than using a pale shade as he normally does, the artist added some colour to the woman’s skin.
Her hair is pinned upwards into a strong bun that won’t fall loose upon the performance. A small tangerine flower is pinned onto the woman’s hair to accessorize. The woman is standing on her left leg as she tilts her body slightly forward. She keeps her chest held up high and throws her back leg towards the wall. She opens her hands up wildly like a bird apart from one another. The ballerina gently curves her body towards the audience as she grins at them in a large smile. Edgar Degas does not usually portray any facial expression upon his ballerinas. Yet, within this piece he has decided that a graceful smile is the exact element missing from the work.
To the right of the piece, the viewer is able to see yet another figure in a similar costume dancing. The background of the stage is coloured in blue and orange mountains on top of one another. This simple background mixes well with the ballerina in a simple colour scheme, yet doesn’t take any attention from her form.