What is a degage?

In ballet, the term “dégagé” refers to a specific movement where the dancer lifts their working foot off the floor and extends it to a pointed position in the air. The word “dégagé” originates from the French verb “dégager,” which means “to disengage” or “to disentangle.” It is used to describe the action of the foot as it disengages from the floor.

To perform a dégagé, a dancer begins with their feet in a closed position, such as first position or fifth position. From there, the working foot glides along the floor, lifting slightly off with a pointed toe while maintaining contact. The movement is executed with speed and precision, focusing on fully extending the leg and pointing the foot. Dégagés can be done to the front, side, or back, and they often serve as a preparation for jumps or other ballet movements.

Dégagé exercises are a fundamental part of ballet training, regularly practiced in classes. They help dancers enhance foot strength, articulation, and control. By practicing dégagés, dancers develop a solid foundation for more advanced movements and work towards improving turnout and maintaining proper alignment.

How do you do a degage?

  • Step 1: Start in the Proper Ballet Position

Begin by standing in a neutral ballet position called the “first position.” Stand tall with your heels together, toes turned out to the sides forming a V shape, and arms gently rounded in front of you.

  • Step 2: Engage Your Core and Alignment

Engage your core muscles by pulling your belly button towards your spine. Ensure proper alignment by keeping your shoulders relaxed and stacked over your hips, with your head lifted and gaze forward.

  • Step 3: Preparation

Shift your weight to one leg, known as the supporting leg, while the other leg, called the working leg, remains relaxed and slightly turned out from the hip. The working leg should be placed either in front (à la quatrième devant) or behind (à la quatrième derrière) the supporting leg.

  • Step 4: Initiate the Movement

Keeping your foot pointed, initiate the dégagé by quickly sliding or brushing the working foot along the floor away from the supporting leg. The foot should glide smoothly without lifting it off the floor. Imagine drawing a line with your toes as you extend your leg.

  • Step 5: Reach Full Extension

Extend the working leg until it reaches its maximum height while maintaining proper alignment and turnout. The foot should be fully pointed, and the leg straight but not hyperextended. Avoid lifting the shoulders or compromising your posture during this extension.

  • Step 6: Control the Return

Slowly and with control, bring the working foot back to the starting position, sliding it along the floor as it passes the supporting leg. Keep your alignment and turnout intact throughout the return movement.

  • Step 7: Repeat and Practice

Repeat the dégagé on the same side for several repetitions, focusing on maintaining proper technique, alignment, and turnout. Once you feel comfortable, practice the dégagé on the other side, alternating between legs.

How to Perform a Dégagé Tips:

  • Keep your turnout throughout the entire movement, from initiation to return.
  • Focus on maintaining a long and extended line from the top of your head down to your working foot.
  • Pay attention to the quality and precision of your footwork, ensuring a fully pointed foot and a clean sliding motion along the floor.
  • Remember to breathe naturally and remain relaxed in your upper body and facial expression.

Remember, mastering ballet techniques takes time and practice. Take it slowly and pay attention to the details, gradually increasing your speed and precision. Regularly incorporating dégagés into your ballet practice will enhance your leg strength, control, and overall grace as a dancer.

Ways to Perform a degage?

  • Dancers possess various techniques and positions to execute dégagés in ballet. Here are a few commonly employed approaches:
  • Starting from first position: Dancers commence with their heels close together and toes turned outward. They smoothly slide their working foot along the floor, slightly lifting it with a pointed toe, while keeping the other foot firmly grounded. The dégagé can be executed in front, to the side, or to the back.
  • Starting from fifth position: Dancers initiate with one foot positioned in front of the other, with the heel touching the toe. By pushing off from the back foot, they gracefully glide the working foot along the floor and raise it with a pointed toe. Once again, dégagés can be performed in various directions.
  • Starting from tendu: Dancers extend their working foot along the floor, creating a pointed position known as tendu, and then promptly lift it off the ground while maintaining the pointed toe. This dynamic movement emphasizes speed and precision.
  • Incorporating développé: Dancers have the option to combine a dégagé with a développé, which involves extending the working leg into the air while maintaining control and proper alignment. In this case, the dégagé acts as a preparatory movement prior to lifting the leg.
  • It is crucial to remember that dégagés should be executed with a focus on technique, including maintaining turnout, aligning the body correctly, achieving a full extension of the leg, and pointing the foot. Dancers also aim for fluidity, control, and musicality in their performance of dégagés.

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