The present drawing incorporates the multiple figure positions that Degas liked to use in his dance compositions of the late 1890s, showing three complete figures, with the beginnings of a fourth on the left side. Although it is not directly related to a finished pastel or oil painting, it does appear preparatory to a pair of compositions done circa 1898, the pastel Danseuses (Lemoisne, no. 1304) and Trois danseuses (jupes jaunes) (Lemoisne, no. 1305). It is likely that the present work represents an early version of this grouping, in which the artist viewed the models from the extreme left. In arriving at the point-of-view used in the pastel, the artist moved at least 90 degrees to the right, so that the dancers were observed frontally. The horizontal axis in the composition, which runs diagonally from lower left to upper right in the present drawing, is reversed in the pastel.
This sequence of images demonstrates the complexity of the serial process in Degas's late works, involving elaborate preparations and a deliberate manipulation of spatial relationships in order to achieve the best pictorial effect. Degas reprised the grouping in the pastel Danseuses in several pastels done circa 1903 (Lemoisne, nos. 1431, 1431bis and 1431ter). Around the same time, he reused the figure of the large dancer seen at left in the present drawing, and incorporated her into three multi-figure pastel compositions (Lemoisne, nos. 1428-1430).