The degage is performed by the dancers in one fluid stroke, and it happens quickly. Like other barre exercises, the degage is performed in three directions, side, front and back. The degage begins with the feet in fifth position and the dancer performs a tendu. The dancer slides the forward foot on the dance floor while lifting the foot above the floor an inch or two to create the degage. They next bring the foot back down into the position of a tendu with the toe touching the ground and pointed. Finally they return to standard fifth position.
The ballet class music that is most effective for the degage is usually characterized by a somewhat bouncy underpinning, normally in 4/4, with a backbeat that tends to accent beat-three more than beat-one. The pianist should create micro-phrases over an 8-count period (not 8 bars, but 8 counts). This helps the dancer with the striking motion and the quickness of the move.
The pianist can further enhance the quickness by making the downbeat sharp and clear (not over-accented though) and by placing it right smack in the pocket. The rhythmic underpinning must be almost metronomic although there is always room to play with the tempo (do not overdo this, it’s subtle) at the end of the major phrases.
To listen to degage music you can visit Ballet Class Music and hear free samples by composer/pianist/dancer Don Caron from his First Class Album series of ballet class music.
For more descriptions of how ballet class music is performed for the various ballet class exercises, read the posts about ronds de jambe, fondus, and frappes.