In a ballet dancer’s warm-up routine, the dégagé ballet move is one of the most basic and important moves next to pliés and tendus. Not only is it a great warm-up move for your feet and legs and can help you strengthen your pointe, but dégagé is also a preparatory step for other advanced moves.
So, mastering the dégagé (along with the other two basic movements) is crucial to becoming a better ballet dancer.
This guide will contain everything that you need to know about the dégagé!
Table of Contents
What Is A Dégagé In Ballet?
Dégagé ballet meaning is actually an abbreviation of battement dégagé, which means “disengaged” in French.
What does dégagé mean in dance language?
Well, the working leg’s foot will extend outward with a tendu, brushing against the floor, then pointing at 45° or lower angles in the air.
Other than being a great warm-up, dégagé is also a preparatory (initiating) step to other ballet moves, like jeté, assemblé, brisé, and glissade.
This term “dégagé” is especially prevalent in American and Italian ballet schools as the ballet dancer will focus on disengaging their foot from the floor.
In French schools, this move is typically called battement glissé (“glide”) instead. Unlike the American or the Italians, the French put more focus on the gliding motion of the foot over the floor rather than the detaching motion.
The Russians, meanwhile, call it the battement jetté, describing the sharp kicking and extension of the leg outward and inward.
But no matter what it’s called, across all four schools of ballet, dégagé is done in the same way. It’s just the naming convention that’s different, so don’t worry too much!
Dégagé Ballet Music
If there’s a live pianist in your studio, then during the dégagé-practicing segments of the class, they need to know how to play the correct music for the practicing dancers.
The best music for practicing dégagé is usually bouncy and spirited, usually in a 4/4 tempo. The backbeat should also accent the third beat more than the first. Additionally, the music should have some micro-phrases over 8 counts (not 8 bars). This will help the dancers with executing their fast, striking motions.
Great pianists can accent the downbeat slightly, making it clearer and sharper. For most of the session, they must also keep perfect time, almost to the precision of a metronome. It’s possible to play around with the tempo slightly to change things up, but the quickness of dégagé means if the pianist plays around with the beat too much, the dancers will risk losing the rhythm.
Even if you don’t have a live pianist in-house, you can still put on some good practicing music to help the dancers count the beat. Carefully select the correct kind of ballet music class, and it’ll help enhance the effectiveness of your training session greatly!
How To Do A Dégagé In Ballet?
Since it is a basic move and is widely taught to beginners, the dégagé ballet move isn’t hard to execute. The only thing you need to remember while doing it is that dégagé is meant to be done quickly and fluidly (in one stroke).
It’s commonly a barré exercise and done in three directions: devant (to the front), de côte (to the side), and derrierè (to the back). It’s a combination move, so the dégagé ballet combination involves not just the dégagé itself, but also tendu (if you don’t know what it is, you can find the definition in the next section).
The dégagé ballet step starts with the ballet dancer in the fifth position, then performs a tendu in one of the three directions above. The dancer slides (or glides) their working leg’s foot against the floor, then lifts it a few inches at a 45° angle or lower to create the dégagé.
The foot must lift off of the floor in the dégagé. That’s why it’s called “disengaged”!
In the next beat, the dancer will lower their foot (still extended in a tendu) with the tips of the toes touching the ground, pointed.
The dancer retracts their leg on the fourth beat and returns to the fifth position.
All that’s left to do is repeat this motion until the instructor declares the session is over or the music ends!
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Other Terms Commonly Used In Ballet
As a ballet dancer, you’ll need to learn a lot of terminologies, most of which will be in French. Dégagé and tendu are two terms that we’ve already touched on earlier. But other than these, there are more (a lot more) terms that you need to know in order to become a good ballet dancer.
While we’ve explained in detail what dégagé is, we haven’t really touched on tendu yet (even though it’s part of the dégagé movement).
Basically, tendu means “stretched” and involves extending your leg in one of the three directions in ballet (front, side, back).
The ballet dancer will go from flat (the foot flat against the floor) to demi-pointe where the working leg’s foot is arched upward and only the point of the foot is touching the floor. This is called tendu à terre. If the point of the toes is elevated over the floor slightly, then it’s called tendu en l’air.
Penché means “tilted” in French. To execute this move, the ballet dancer will tilt their body forward over the hips until their head is lower than their working leg.
If you need an example of what it could look like, see the arabesque penché move, which involves doing a split while standing on one foot. One leg of the dancer will lift more than 90° upward. Though technically challenging, it’s a beautiful display of flexibility that only seasoned ballet dancers can pull off (safely).
Passé means “Pass” and involves passing the foot from front to back continuously. This term is typically used to refer to retiré passé, which involves passing the foot of the working leg past the knee from front to back, and vice versa.
This move can be executed (or finished) by first sliding the working leg’s foot up or down the length of the supporting leg, or it can be done from an open position like a pirouette from fourth position. The ballet dancer may also transition from the knee to another position, like arabesque or développé.
This is a variation of jeté (meaning “thrown”). On its own, jeté involves doing a leap with one leg looking like it’s thrown in the direction of the ballet dancer’s movement.
The French originally called this variation the Tour jeté, but with the introduction of the Vaganova method by the Russians, many teachers now refer to it as jeté entrelacé.
This move is executed by initiating a jump with a grand battement en avant of the leading leg. It’s immediately followed by a fouetté that turns the body of the dancer 180° while the trailing leg extends outward in a grand battement derrierè.
The move is finished with a landing on arabesque and the leading leg now becomes the standing (or landing) leg.
Élevé (or “raised” in French) refers to the rising motion of the foot to pointe or demi-pointe from the position of straight legs and flat feet.
The antonym of élevé in many ballet schools is relevé (meaning “relifted”). It’s basically the same thing (rising to demi-pointe or pointe) but from plié (bent knees) instead of flat feet or straight legs.
However, do note that in most French, Russian, and Cecchetti-compliant schools, the term relevé is used to refer to both concepts.
The dégagé ballet move is one of the most basic moves you can learn as a dancer. Besides being a great warm-up, it also sets the condition for learning many more advanced ballet moves.
Fortunately, as you can see, dégagé isn’t hard to learn. You should be able to grasp the basics in just a few minutes. But practicing it again and again and ingraining the motion into memory will take months, if not years, of regular practice.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you further in your journey to becoming a ballet dancer!
If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us via the comment section below. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can!