In the Spring of 1889, at the Café Volpini in Paris, an exhibition opened which was to mark the emergence of the movement of the Pont-Aven School. Paul Gauguin, the generally acknowledged driving force behind the group, encouraged his followers to abandon academic restraints and explore a new style of painting, characterised by flat forms, harmonious colours and rhythmic patterns. Involved chiefly with these aesthetic and abstract questions, but also fascinated by the people, customs and landscapes of Brittany, Gauguin and his circle found their solutions to the problems posed by these concerns in media that were largely scorned as inferior, or as the domain of the artisan. Thus prints, woodcuts and etchings formed as integral a part of the Pont-Aven School as the more accepted media, even if not in the accepted notions of the hierarchy of the arts.
Georges Lacombe was born in Versailles and trained at the Académie Julian. He first went to Brittany in 1888, when he visited Camaret in Finistère, and spent the next several summers in the region, until 1897. It was not until 1892, however, that Lacombe's meeting with Paul Sérusier and his introduction to the works of Gauguin resulted in profound changes in his paintings and wood carvings. He subsequently adopted a less naturalistic style, placing greater emphasis on the flowing line which, in the present work, creates rhythm and symmetry through the repeated form of the three female dancers, placed between the two, more animated dancers on the ends. A similarly rhythmic impulse informs what is perhaps Lacombe's best known carving, the rhapsodic, polychrome Iris (Paris, Musée D'Orsay), exhibited in 1895 at the Salon des Indépendants.