Ballet Company Heirarchy

Ballet Clasico de Queretaro Fernando Jhones

The Corps de Ballet in the back and the Principal Dancer in Giselle. Image courtesy of Ballet Clasico de Queretaro Fernando Jhones.

Classical ballet companies have a ranking system. Most dancers enter a company from the bottom rung of the ladder, so to speak: the corps de ballet (which consists of “the body” of the ballet company). How does a ballet company hierarchy work?

Ballet Company Heirarchy

Today, ballet companies continue to rank their dancers in hierarchical fashion, although most have adopted a sex neutral classification system, and very few recognise a single leading dancer.

In most large companies, there are usually several leading dancers of each sex, titled Principal Dancer or Etoile to reflect their seniority within the company. Other common rankings include those of Corps de Ballet and Soloist.

The title of Prima Ballerina Assoluta is rarely used, and it is usually reserved as a mark of respect for an internationally renowned dancer who has had a highly notable career. Dancers who are identified as a Guest Artist, are usually those who have achieved a high rank with their company, and have subsequently been engaged to dance with other ballet companies around the world, normally performing the lead role.

  • Prima ballerina assoluta
  • Prima ballerina, premier sujet or première danseuse
  • Sujet
  • Coryphée
  • Corps de ballet

For men, the ranks were:

  • Premier danseur noble
  • Premier danseur
  • Danseur
  • Sujet
  • Coryphée
  • Corps de ballet

More on company structure and ranking here at

Ranking names vary from company to company. The Royal Ballet company, for example, uses different names for their ranking system:

The Royal Ballet has six ranks of dancers in ascending order:

  • Artist (Corps de ballet)
  • First Artist
  • Soloist
  • First soloist
  • Principal character artist
  • Principal

The Royal Ballet also has special ranks for visiting dancers, they are “guest artist and “principal guest artist”.

Read article source here.

Ballet company hierarchy is part of ballet life and it’s great to see young dancers climbing up the ranks of their company.

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About Romy Macias, Senior Editor

Romy danced with the Ballet Clasico de Queretaro Fernando Jhones for 10 years having reached 1st soloist position. She presently takes on character roles and teaches at the company's junior academy. This site is a testament to her passion for classical ballet. You're invited to be part of our community and join in the joy for this amazing art form.


  1. You’re making a more-informed ballet fan of me, that’s for sure! Thanks!

  2. Kathy says:

    I am always learning something I didn’t know when I read your posts.
    Great Info!

  3. Peter Gehr says:

    Another good post. Thanks for the details. It’s such a structured dance regimen–and I’m sure it has to be.

  4. Human beings are so funny. We always like to make a pecking order and hope to come out on top.

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