It takes the average ballerina anywhere from 8 to 10 years to reach the pro level. That should give you an idea of how intensive the job is.
But with such a long and notoriously difficult training regime, a lot of people have wondered (rightfully): how much do ballerinas make?
Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple one.
Depending on various factors, the average ballet dancer can make as little as $35,000 a year to as high as $262,000 (this is, obviously, an outlier.)
In this article, we’ll delve into the various aspects and stages of a ballerina’s career and explore their salaries at each stage. For those looking to become pro-level dancers, this article will surely be of use!
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How Much Do Ballerinas Make?
According to ZipRecruiter, the average ballet dancer’s salary nationwide in the US is about $76,602 a year (or $35 an hour).
This is a fairly decent sum, but remember that this is the average figure. Most dancers will have a salary between $37,500 and $60,000. These include student/beginner dancers to intermediate-level dancers with a few years of experience.
Lead ballerinas and famous soloists can make well over $100,000, with the best of the best making a mindblowing sum of $262,500. But as expected, it’s not easy to reach this level.
Not just because the ballet industry as a whole is extremely competitive, but you also need to have amazing talent – the likes of Misty Copeland and Olga Smirnova – to break the $100k or $200k barrier.
Read more: How Much Do Backup Dancers Make?
Highest-Paid Ballet Dancer
Wondering how much the highest-paid ballet dancers make?
For ballerinas (females), currently, it’s Sylvie Guillem that’s holding the title as the most lucratively paid in the world. She brings home well over $850,000 per year.
With a long and illustrious career spanning decades since the 80s, Sylvie has been in demand by theaters worldwide. She got sold-out shows anywhere she goes.
Even though she’s not in her 40s, Sylvie is still making waves with her performance.
What Affects A Ballerina’s Earning
A ballerina’s earning is affected by many different factors. From skill levels, locations, and the company employing them … true take-home wages can vary hugely from one ballerina to another.
This is one of the reasons why pays are so difficult to estimate among dancers. Unlike other jobs, there are just way too many variables that go into the final figures!
Levels Of Ballerina Roles
In a ballet company, a dancer can get into numerous roles. Each role has its own set of expectations, requirements, and compensation.
To get picked for a role, the dancer must audition and display their technical skill and artistry to a hiring board. The better they are at their trade, the more well-compensated they will be.
At the bottom of the hierarchy are apprenticeships or corps de ballet positions. These positions are typically reserved for younger dancers still developing their skills and gaining experience.
Apprentices and corps de ballet members may earn a modest salary or stipend, which may be supplemented with room and board or other benefits.
Typically, they make no more than $35,000 a year (depending on the geographic location and the company.)
As dancers progress in their careers, they may be promoted to soloist or principal (prima ballerinas) roles. These roles come with higher wages and more demanding expectations.
Soloists are often responsible for carrying major supporting roles in productions. As such, they must be incredibly skilled.
Besides soloists, principal ballerinas make a tidy sum per performance due to them being the show’s stars. Their performances are often the main draw for audiences.
Both of these positions are typically the highest paid in a company due to the demand and visibility of the job.
Check more: How To Get Banana Feet Ballet?
Location Or Region
In the US, ballerinas in major metropolitan areas, such as New York City and Los Angeles, will definitely make more than those in rural or small-town areas.
These cities have more opportunities for ballerinas to perform, and the more gigs you have, the better your income flow will be.
Additionally, large and established ballet companies are based in these cities. So, you’ll also have a better chance of getting employment.
However, the cost of living in these areas is often higher, which can impact your final income.
This is why many ballerinas have retreated from the hustle and bustle of NYC or LA to smaller cities. Although they won’t make quite as much, the lower cost of living means you’ll have more in the bank by the end of the year.
This is arguably the biggest factor contributing to a ballerina’s salary. Larger, more prestigious companies generally pay higher salaries. Meanwhile, smaller, regional companies may pay less.
But the equation isn’t all that cut and dry!
In general, larger ballet companies like the American Ballet Theater and The Royal Ballet have more resources. They also hold a lot more shows that are attended by more people. With such a big income stream, these companies can afford to pay their dancers a higher salary.
But in return, if you want to dance for the highest-paying ballet companies, you have to be truly exceptional.
These companies are quite literally the face of ballet. So, they have very exacting and strict standards for the dancers they sign contracts with.
If you search around for a while, you’ll be able to find many stories about auditioning for companies like ABT.
If you make the cut, you’ll be offered very competitive salaries and benefits packages, even at the entry level. These companies offer these lucrative packages as a way to attract and retain top talent.
For example, the average dancer makes $32.53 an hour ($67,661 a year) with the American Ballet Theater.
Smaller, regional companies, on the other hand, are the complete opposite.
These companies don’t hold as many shows and don’t have a lot of resources for big-budget productions. Their show attendance numbers definitely won’t be as high as larger companies.
As a result, they may not be able to pay their dancers as much. But what you get in return if you sign up with them is a more relaxed auditioning process.
In a bid to compete with larger companies for talent, these smaller companies may offer other benefits, such as more personalized attention from instructors and choreographers.
What Can Ballerinas Do After Retirement?
A ballerina doesn’t necessarily have to stop dancing after they retire. The opposite, in fact. Most ballerinas can transition to different careers and jobs very quickly, especially if these jobs are dance-related.
Here are a few professions and careers that an ex-ballerina can pursue once they decide to hang up the pointe shoes.
This is the most obvious choice for retired ballerinas.
Using their expertise on the stage, ex-ballerinas make for excellent dance instructors and coaches. This job helps to share their knowledge and experience with a new generation of dancers.
They’ll find plenty of places with teaching opportunities, from dance studios to universities. They may even start their own classes and teach privately!
Many retired ballerinas choose to focus on choreography. This way, they can still contribute their talent to the arts without having to be the ones dancing on the stage.
As choreographers, ex-ballet dancers can create pieces for other dancers to perform. Rudolf Nureyev is a great example of a ballet dancer-turn-choreographer.
Ballerinas with strong organizational and leadership skills may find careers in arts administration, working for dance companies, theaters, or other arts organizations.
Physical Therapy Or Dance Medicine
Retired ballerinas interested in health and wellness may pursue careers in physical therapy or dance medicine. They will work with dancers to prevent and treat injuries.
Some ballerinas may choose to transition into acting or other performance arts, leveraging their stage presence and dramatic skills.
There are tons of dancers in history who succeeded in Hollywood, like Neve Campbell, Zoe Saldana, and Mikhail Baryshnikov.
Retired ballerinas passionate about social justice or community outreach may find meaningful work with non-profit organizations. Here, they will use the arts to promote social change.
The Houston Ballet Foundation, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, and Ballet Tech Foundation are just some of the non-profit organizations in the US that’ll always be in need of a skilled dancer to work with them.
So, how much do ballerinas make, in general?
Anywhere from $30,000 to $200,000+, depending on the skill levels, roles, location, and company they’re signed up with.
We hope this guide has cleared up any questions that you may have about a ballerina’s salary!
If you have any other questions you’d like to ask, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can!