Principal dancer

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Sarah Lamb, a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet in London.

A principal dancer (often shortened to principal) is a dancer at the highest rank within a professional dance company, particularly a ballet company.

A principal may be male or female. The position is similar to that of soloist; however, principals regularly perform not only solos, but also pas de deux. Principal dancers can be hired into a dance company or can also be a company dancer that is a corps de ballet dancer that gets promoted from within the company. That process can take multiple performance seasons or even years to achieve based on skill level and company interest. It is a coveted position in the company and the most prominent position a dancer can receive. The term is used mostly in ballet but can be used in other forms as well, such as modern dance. They are usually the star of the ballet. The term senior principal dancer is sometimes used as well.[1]

Synonyms and origin[edit]

The French derived terms[2] prima ballerina (female dancers) (primo for male dancers) or premier danseur (male dancers)have been used to denote similar levels of prominence in non Anglo-Saxon companies. In the Paris Opera Ballet, principal dancers receive the title of Danseur Étoile.

Company Hierarchy[edit]

The traditional dance company hierarchy is designed as follows:

  1. Senior principal dancers or principal dancers
  2. Senior soloists
  3. Junior soloists
  4. Coryphées
  5. Corps de ballet
  6. Character Artists

Current Principal Dancers[edit]

American Ballet Theatre[edit]


Martha Graham Modern Dance Company[edit]



  • Lloyd Knight
  • Ben Schultz

Current Principal dancer Crisis[edit]

There have only been a handful of principal dancers of major ballet companies that aren't white. Misty Copland made history in 2015 by being the first ever African american principal dancer in the 75 year history of the American Ballet Theater Company. Dancers of color have always been in the corps de ballet or the highest ranking achieved to be a soloist within a specific show. By this being the norm, it is harder and harder to see accurate representation or needed diversity within these major influential companies within the dance world.


  1. ^ "Senior Principal dancer". English National Ballet. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  2. ^ "the definition of danseur noble". Retrieved 2019-03-26.
  3. ^ "Dancers | American Ballet Theatre (ABT)". American Ballet Theatre. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  4. ^ "Dancers | American Ballet Theatre (ABT)". American Ballet Theatre. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  5. ^ Sherwood, M. "Dancers". Martha Graham Dance Company. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  6. ^ Sherwood, M. "Dancers". Martha Graham Dance Company. Retrieved 2019-03-28.