Balanchine considered this work essentially a restaging of the pas de trois from Marius Petipa's ballet Paquita. He changed some steps for the 1951 New York City Ballet version. The ballet was intended as a tour de force for its three dancers as its demanding choreography poses a nonstop test of technique and virtuosity.
Léon Minkus (1826-1917), born in Vienna, was a composer and violinist of Czech or Polish origin. In the early 1850's he went to Russia, where he had successful career as a concert violinist. Beginning as a soloist at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow in 1861, he became its conductor from 1862-72. His debut as a composer in Russia was in 1869 with the ballet Don Quixote; the scenario was by Petipa. In 1872 he was appointed ballet composer to the Imperial Theaters in St. Petersburg. He continued his association with Petipa with a long series of ballets that were popular in their day, but are now largely forgotten. Among those that have survived are Don Quixote, La Bayadère, and Paquita.