"Jeanne" refers to a Parisian hostess and patroness of the arts, Jeanne Dubost, who ran a children’s ballet school. In the spring of 1927 she presented ten of her composer friends with leaves from her fan, asking each of them to write a little dance for her pupils. The children were dressed in fairytale costumes and the décor was enlivened by a set designed with mirrors.
It was produced in private at Jeanne Dubost’s Paris salon on 16 June 1927, with Maurice Ravel playing a piano transcription of the music. It had its public premiere at the Paris Opéra on 4 March 1929, with the ten-year-old Tamara Toumanova dancing the lead role. This was the first performance of any of Darius Milhaud's music at the Opéra, and he was so annoyed that he should debut with a trifling little Polka rather than one of his serious stage works that he boycotted the performance.
Various excerpts have been recorded, particularly Ravel’s Fanfare and Poulenc’s Pastourelle, but the first complete recording was not made until 1984, with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Geoffrey Simon.