Behind-the-scenes participation at the Garnier Opera performances allowed Degas access to details of the dancers' practices that were otherwise unseen. By the late 1870s and into the 1880s he attended both the performances and rehearsals, and he became well-known among the members of the company. With such privileged access he could render the dancers with his pastels in the midst of a staged production and in their more intimate moments when their movements were wholly unchoreographed. As Richard Kendall and Jill De Vonyar write: "no one observed more closely than Degas...the process by which 'common' Opéra dancers were transformed—through makeup, stylized costumes, and the distance between the proscenium and the audience—into 'priestesses of grace'. Much of his own art was concerned with this metamorphosis: research has increasingly revealed the extent to which his performance images were rooted in firsthand experience of the state rather than in his painterly imagination" (Degas and the Dance (exhibition catalogue), The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit & Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 2002, p. 157).
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