Frederick Ashton saw Isadora Duncan dance in London in 1921. It was to be one of the most enduring influences on his life. Duncan's freedom of movement, the driven intensity of her dancing and the way in which she seemed to fuse music and dance, were all profound influences on Ashton's own choreographic style. Almost fifty years after seeing her perform, Ashton recalled, 'She had the most extraordinary quality of repose. She would stand for what seemed quite a long time doing nothing, and then make a very small gesture that seemed full of meaning'.
Ashton originally choreographed a single waltz for Lynn Seymour, which had its premiere at a Hamburg gala on 22 June 1975 in memory of Vaslav Nijinsky (another choreographer strongly influenced by Duncan). The following year he expanded the piece to create a suite for Seymour, for a gala celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ballet Rambert – Marie Rambert, another admirer of Duncan, reputedly burst into tears on seeing Seymour so strongly embody one of her idols. Seymour never saw Duncan dance but was guided by the compendium of photos and line drawings that Ashton had collected. She later said of Duncan, 'She was a pioneer – she had a huge, strong self-belief. You don't see a lot of that today'.