person who practices the art of ballet

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.

Ballerina Irina Baranova

Today the term 'ballerina' has gone rather out of fashion. Now they are simply called 'Principal dancers'.[1] 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:[2]

  1. Corps de ballet (these do not dance named individual parts)
  2. Coryphées (minor soloists)
  3. Principal character artists (dance roles with significant acting)
  4. Second soloists (dancers who take named solo roles)
  5. First soloists (one rank up from the previous)
  6. Principal dancers (if female, same as 'ballerinas'; they dance leading roles)
  7. Principal guest artist (a well-known and sometimes famous dancer, usually from abroad)


  1. Crane, Debra and Mackrell, Judith 2000. The Oxford dictionary of dance. Oxford University Press. p40
  2. From the progamme of the Mariinsky Ballet at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 2011.