Ballerinas are classically trained dancers who perform on stage, usually with a dance company. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, includes salary information for ballerinas with the wages all dancers earn. Based on these statistics, the average ballerina earns a bit more than minimum wage, though she has opportunities to earn more.
As of May 2010, according to the BLS, dancers earned an average of $13.16 an hour. The top 10 percent of dancers earned in excess of $30.43 an hour, while the bottom 10 percent took home an average of $7.79 an hour. Prima ballerinas featured in productions earn more than anonymous dancers in a company. Julie Kent, a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, earns $171,000 a year.
Ballerinas will likely find more job opportunities in New York, California, Nevada, Hawaii and Florida than elsewhere in the U.S., according to the BLS. Those who dance in Nevada, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Arizona and Hawaii will earn more than ballerinas performing in other parts of the country. Ballerinas affiliated with a dance company will earn more than those who have no such affiliation, according to the BLS.
A ballerina’s years of training can affect how much she earns, as will her level of responsibility in a dance company. Becoming a ballet master or mistress will likely result in a pay bump. Supplementing training with formal education can also affect salary. The National Association of Schools of Dance accredits more than 70 dance programs that offer courses in, among other styles of dance, ballet. Ballerinas who belong to a union, such as the American Guild of Musical Artists, may also fare better than non-union ballerinas, since the union guarantees ballerinas earn a set hourly rate.
The BLS anticipates employment opportunities for dancers to grow by 11 percent by 2020. With few companies adding new dancers and, in some cases, shutting down, ballerinas will face stiff competition when vying for a place at the barre. Ballerinas who attend schools or conservatories affiliated with a company may have a better shot at finding work. as will those who work in fields outside of dance companies, such as on television or in movies.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 -- Dancers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Dancers and Choreographers -- Pay
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Dancers and Choreographers -- Job Outlook
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – How to Become a Dancer or Choreographer
- New York Magazine: Who Makes How Much
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.