Home>Events & Info>Ballet>What Does Dégagé Mean In Ballet

What Does Dégagé Mean In Ballet What Does Dégagé Mean In Ballet


What Does Dégagé Mean In Ballet

Written by: Ethel Bacon

Discover the meaning of "Dégagé" in ballet, an essential term in the world of ballet technique. Gain insights into its purpose and execution.

(Many of the links in this article redirect to a specific reviewed product. Your purchase of these products through affiliate links helps to generate commission for AudioLover.com, at no extra cost. Learn more)

Table of Contents


Ballet, a beautiful and graceful art form, has captivated audiences for centuries with its precise technique and exquisite movements. Within the world of ballet, there are countless terms and techniques that dancers must master in order to perform at the highest level. One of these essential steps, known as dégagé, is a fundamental element in ballet training and repertoire.

Dégagé, which translates to “disengaged” or “disengaging” in French, is a term used to describe a movement in ballet where the working foot gently slides off the floor into a fully extended position with pointed toes. It is performed while the supporting leg remains either on the floor or slightly lifted, creating a momentary weight transfer and showcasing the strength, control, and precision of the dancer.

This step, often referred to as a “brush” in English, serves multiple purposes in ballet training. It helps develop the dancer’s technique, strength, and flexibility, while also enhancing their ability to execute more complex movements and sequences.

Throughout this article, we will delve deeper into the definition, technique, execution, and significance of dégagé in ballet. By gaining a deeper understanding of this essential step, you will be able to appreciate its importance and beauty in the intricate world of ballet.


Definition of Dégagé

In ballet, dégagé is a term used to describe a movement where the working foot is brushed and disengaged from the floor into a fully extended position, with the toes pointed. It is performed with precision and control, showcasing the dancer’s technique, strength, and flexibility. The supporting leg may be either on the floor or slightly lifted.

Dégagé is considered a foundational step in ballet training and serves as a building block for more complex movements. It helps develop the dancer’s ability to initiate movement from the core and transfer weight smoothly between legs.

The term “dégagé” comes from the French word “dégager,” which means “to free” or “to release.” This reflects the essence of the step, as the working foot is released from the floor in a controlled manner.

While dégagé may appear simple, it requires precision and attention to detail. The dancer must maintain proper alignment and placement throughout the movement, ensuring that the leg remains fully extended, the foot is pointed, and the body remains balanced.

Additionally, dégagé can be performed in various directions, such as front, side, and back. Each direction offers different challenges and helps to develop specific muscles and coordination.

Overall, dégagé is a fundamental step in ballet that helps develop the dancer’s technique, strength, and control. It is a versatile movement that serves as a foundation for more complicated steps and sequences, making it an essential component of any ballet dancer’s training.


Technique and Execution

Executing dégagé with proper technique requires a combination of strength, flexibility, and control. The dancer must focus on maintaining alignment and precision throughout the movement.

To begin, the dancer starts in a strong, upright posture, with engaged core muscles and a lifted upper body. The supporting leg remains grounded, while the working leg is relaxed and ready to initiate the movement.

As the movement begins, the working foot smoothly brushes along the floor, maintaining contact until the moment of fully extending the leg. The foot is pointed, and the toes reach as far as possible, creating a clean line of extension. The leg should remain straight and the foot should be at an angle of 90 degrees to the leg.

The working leg should remain in line with the hip, avoiding any rotation or deviation. The hips and shoulders should remain squared to the front, ensuring proper alignment throughout the movement. The upper body should stay lifted and energized, with the arms positioned in a harmonious and expressive manner.

Proper footwork is crucial in executing dégagé. The foot should be fully articulated, with a strong and pointed toe. The arch should be engaged, and the toes should be lengthened, creating a beautiful line and extension.

Dégagé can be executed at different tempos, ranging from slow and controlled to quick and sharp. Developing control and precision in both the slower and faster versions of dégagé is important for a well-rounded dancer.

It is essential to remember that dégagé is not just about the movement of the leg and foot. Maintaining a strong core, proper alignment, and coordination between the upper and lower body are key elements in executing dégagé with precision and grace.

The execution of dégagé should be consistent and fluid, with a seamless transition from one movement to the next. It is important for dancers to practice and refine their technique to ensure that each dégagé is executed accurately and beautifully.


Footwork and Placement

In dégagé, the footwork and placement play a crucial role in executing the movement with precision and elegance. Proper alignment and placement of the working foot and the supporting leg are key elements to focus on.

As the working foot disengages from the floor, it should brush along the floor, maintaining contact until fully extended. The foot should be pointed with the toes lengthened and the ankle aligned with the leg. The instep of the foot should be visible and create a beautiful line.

The toes should be fully articulated, with the big toe leading the way and the other toes following suit. This articulation creates a clean and distinct brush off the floor, showcasing the dancer’s control and technique.

While executing dégagé, the supporting leg remains stable and engaged. The weight distribution between the supporting leg and the working leg should allow for a smooth transfer of weight as the working foot disengages from the floor. The supporting leg should maintain proper alignment and control throughout the movement.

The placement of the foot and leg is important in maintaining proper alignment and creating harmony in the movement. It is important to avoid sickling or winging the foot during dégagé, as this can disrupt the flow and line of the movement. The foot and leg should be in line with the hip, avoiding any rotation or deviation.

Additionally, the placement of the foot in dégagé can vary depending on the direction of the movement. When dégagé is performed to the front or side, the foot should be fully extended in a straight line, with toes pointed. When dégagé is performed to the back, the foot should be extended with the toes slightly curved, creating a slightly different line.

The correct footwork and placement in dégagé contribute to the overall aesthetic and precision of the movement. Dancers should focus on maintaining proper alignment, engaging the muscles of the foot and leg, and executing the movement with grace and control.


Arm Movements

While dégagé primarily focuses on the movement and placement of the legs and feet, the arms also play a crucial role in enhancing the overall expression and artistry of the step. Proper arm movements can complement and enhance the grace and fluidity of dégagé.

During dégagé, the arms should maintain a sense of harmony and balance with the movement of the legs. The positions of the arms can vary depending on the stylistic choices of the choreography or the specific ballet technique being performed.

One common arm position during dégagé is the “en haut” or “high fifth” position. In this position, the arms are rounded and lifted, forming a gentle oval shape above the head. This position adds elegance and elongation to the dancer’s line, creating a beautifully elongated and extended look.

Another common arm position is the “en bas” or “low fifth” position. In this position, the arms are rounded and lowered to a level just below the waist. This position can add a sense of groundedness and stability to the dégagé movement.

Other arm positions, such as “en première” (first position) or “en seconde” (second position), can also be incorporated into dégagé, depending on the choreography or style of the ballet. These positions add variety and flexibility to the arm movements, allowing the dancer to explore different artistic expressions.

Regardless of the specific arm position chosen, it is essential to maintain fluidity and grace in the movement. The arms should complement the leg movements and flow naturally, avoiding any tension or stiffness. Ballet dancers strive to create a sense of continuous energy and beauty throughout their entire body, including their arms and hands.

Coordination between the arms and legs is vital in dégagé. The dancer should focus on creating a harmonious connection between the movements of the upper and lower body, ensuring that the arms and legs work together seamlessly.

By incorporating expressive and graceful arm movements, dancers can elevate the artistry of dégagé and convey a deeper emotional connection to the audience. The arms add another layer of beauty and storytelling to this essential ballet step.


Tempo and Dynamics

The tempo and dynamics of dégagé play a significant role in showcasing the technical skill and artistic expression of the dancer. Varying the tempo and dynamics adds depth and dimension to the movement, making it more engaging for both the performer and the audience.

Tempo refers to the speed at which the dégagé movement is performed. Dancers can execute dégagé at different tempos, ranging from slow and controlled to quick and sharp. Practicing dégagé at different tempos helps dancers develop control, precision, and adaptability in their movements.

Performing dégagé at a slower tempo allows dancers to focus on their technique, alignment, and placement. It also helps to develop strength and control in the supporting leg, as the slow tempo demands sustained balance and stability throughout the movement.

On the other hand, performing dégagé at a faster tempo challenges dancers to maintain precision and clarity in their movements. It requires quick footwork and rapid weight transfers, showcasing a dancer’s agility and speed.

Dynamics refer to the energy and intensity of the movement. Dégagé can be performed with different dynamics, such as soft and controlled or sharp and powerful. Varying the dynamics creates contrast and adds emotional depth to the performance.

Performing dégagé with soft and controlled dynamics emphasizes elegance, fluidity, and attention to detail. It allows dancers to showcase their grace and subtlety, while maintaining precision and clarity in their movements.

Performing dégagé with sharp and powerful dynamics showcases strength, dynamism, and athleticism. It demands quick and decisive movements, punctuated with energy and intensity. This dynamic approach can create a sense of excitement and impact in the performance.

It is important for dancers to explore and experiment with different tempos and dynamics in dégagé, as it allows them to develop versatility and artistry in their dance. By mastering the ability to adapt to different tempos and execute different dynamics, dancers can add depth and expressiveness to their performances.

Ultimately, finding a balance between tempo and dynamics in dégagé is crucial. Dancers should strive to maintain control, precision, and elegance, regardless of the speed or energy of the movement. This balance ensures that dégagé remains a captivating and integral part of a dancer’s repertoire.


Examples in Ballet Repertoire

Dégagé is a fundamental step in ballet training and can be found in numerous ballets across different styles and repertoire. It is often used as a preparatory or transitional step, as well as a focal point of choreography. Here are some examples of dégagé in well-known ballets:

  • Swan Lake: In the iconic ballet “Swan Lake,” dégagé is frequently used in various variations and group dances. It can be seen in the precise footwork of the swans, accentuating their grace and precision.
  • The Nutcracker: In the beloved holiday classic “The Nutcracker,” there are several instances of dégagé in different scenes. For example, in the Waltz of the Flowers, dancers perform dégagé movements that correspond with the delicate and melodic music.
  • Giselle: In the romantic ballet “Giselle,” dégagé is often used to highlight the ethereal qualities of the Wilis, the spirits of young maidens. The dancers execute dégagé movements with a serene and airy touch, enhancing the otherworldly atmosphere of the ballet.
  • Don Quixote: In the energetic and vibrant ballet “Don Quixote,” dégagé is frequently showcased during the dazzling variations performed by Kitri and other female characters. These rapid and precise dégagé movements demonstrate the technical prowess and fiery nature of the characters.
  • La Bayadère: In the grand ballet “La Bayadère,” dégagé is used to highlight the intricate footwork and controlled leg extensions of the temple dancers. These precise dégagé movements add to the mesmerizing visual spectacle of the exotic and richly layered ballet.

These examples demonstrate the versatility and significance of dégagé in ballet repertoire. From classical to contemporary works, dégagé serves as a foundational step that showcases a dancer’s technical skill and adds depth to the storytelling and character development.

Whether as a standalone step or integrated into larger choreographic sequences, dégagé remains a vital component of ballet repertoire, captivating audiences with its precision, elegance, and artistic expression.



Dégagé, a fundamental step in ballet, holds its own significance and beauty within the intricate world of dance. This graceful movement, executed with precision and control, is a testament to the technique, strength, and artistry of ballet dancers.

Throughout this article, we have explored the definition, technique, execution, and examples of dégagé in ballet repertoire. We have learned that dégagé involves the gentle and intentional disengagement of the working foot from the floor, extending it fully with pointed toes. It requires proper alignment, placement, and fluidity throughout the movement.

In addition, dégagé allows dancers to develop their technique, strength, and flexibility as they progress in their training. It serves as a foundation for more complex movements and sequences, helping dancers refine their control, coordination, and artistry.

From the delicate and precise footwork to the expressive arm movements, dégagé showcases the skill and dedication of ballet dancers. It is a versatile step that can be executed at varying tempos and dynamics, adding depth and artistry to performances.

Whether it is seen in classical ballets like “Swan Lake,” “The Nutcracker,” or “Giselle,” or in more contemporary works, dégagé remains a timeless and essential component of ballet repertoire. Its presence in choreography highlights the technical prowess, grace, and storytelling abilities of dancers.

Overall, dégagé is a testament to the beauty and precision of ballet technique. It embodies the delicate balance between strength and grace, requiring dancers to master the intricate details of foot placement, alignment, and movement. Through their dedication and artistry, ballet dancers bring dégagé to life on stage, captivating audiences with their elegant execution.

By understanding the significance and technique of dégagé, we gain a deeper appreciation for the skill and passion that ballet dancers bring to this exquisite art form. As we watch dancers glide across the stage, showcasing their dégagés, let us marvel at the beauty and artistry that ballet evokes.

Related Post