was interested in the natural cycles of activity and rest that he observed
behind the scenes at the Opera House. In The Dance Lesson, he focused
on these "in-between times" when the dancers, released briefly from their
strenuous practice regimen, could relax. In Before the Ballet, he
depicted the entire cycle of activity and rest in one painting. Degas greatly
admired the young dancers athleticism and controlled energy; he tried
to capture the tension inherent in the life of a working ballerina in his
In Before the Ballet, at one end of the room dancers practice at the barre, while at the other end, they rest. In a few moments, they will likely change places.
Degas found this same tension in his observations of horses and jockeys. In his racing paintings he often concentrated on the time just before or after the race rather than on the race itself.