A ballerina is a name given to a female ballet dancer. Only very good female ballet dancers are called ballerinas. A ballerina is a principal dancer in a classical ballet company. The highest ranking female dancer in a company was usually called the prima ballerina.
Today the term 'ballerina' has gone rather out of fashion. Now they are simply called 'Principal dancers'. Dancers in a company are ranked by the company, and paid accordingly. They have to prove themselves in lesser parts before they can get promoted.
Example of the ranks in a modern dance company:
- Corps de ballet (these do not dance named individual parts)
- Coryphées (minor soloists)
- Principal character artists (dance roles with significant acting)
- Second soloists (dancers who take named solo roles)
- First soloists (one rank up from the previous)
- Principal dancers (if female, same as 'ballerinas'; they dance leading roles)
- Principal guest artist (a well-known and sometimes famous dancer, usually from abroad)