This work is described as a Dance poem (poeme dansée). Dukas (1865-1935) was one of the first composers to contribute an essay in this characteristically French genre, preceding Debussy's 1912 Jeux and Ravel's 1919 La Valse. La Péri was composed in 1911 and premiered in 1912. Dukas' analysis of a dance poem was a through-composed symphonic work with a determined programme and content, but where individual sections are related to different dance forms rather than traditional symphonic models. Ballet was therefore a good medium for Dukas to compose La Péri, because it gave him greater freedom.
The principal character of the work is Iskander, a figure familiar from Eastern legends, who is searching for the flower of immortality. The exotic background and the musical evocation of the powerful human emotions gave Dukas, then at the peak of his powers, immense scope for his skills. Dukas seems to have been aware of this and after finishing La Péri, wrote only two further small works. In his remaining years, he hardly composed anything more and even destroyed some of his completed work with which he had become dissatisfied.