Ballet dancing is a demanding career requiring diverse talents including creativity, athleticism and the ability to perform in front of an audience. Most ballerinas, also called ballet dancers, work for performing arts companies. Although talent is a necessary prerequisite for ballerinas, most have been in school and training classes for many years to hone their natural talents. Drawbacks of this career include a high rate of on-the-job injuries, limited number of years that you can dance and job instability.
The national average for ballerinas, according to the Internet salary survey website Salary Expert, is $44,015. Geographic differences among 10 randomly selected cities included Pierre, S.D., $26,125; Houston, $28,180; Miami, $38,960; Walla Walla, Wash., $42,956; Augusta, Maine, $43,304; Chicago, $44,191; Philadelphia, $45,427; Baltimore, $47,608; New York, $51,242 and Washington, D.C., $52,334 with a difference in salary of $26,209 between the top and lowest paying cities. Generally, the more geographically dense the city is, the greater the demand for ballet dancers.
Most ballerinas' earnings don't increase significantly throughout their career. The difference between the national average wage and the average of the top 10 percent of performers in 10 randomly selected cities is $15,632. Individual averages for those in the top 10 percent include Pierre, S.D. $48,934; Houston, $51,719; Miami, $52,775; Walla Walla, Wash., $58,188; Augusta, Maine, $58,660; Chicago, $59,861; Philadelphia, $61,535; Baltimore, $64,489; New York, $69,412 and Washington, D.C., $70,892.
Most ballerinas dance at the amateur level beginning in childhood, performing in shows for many years before they receive a dime. Few of these ballerinas have the talent, discipline, appearance and luck to make it as a professional. Many ballerinas do not receive a regular salary. Instead, they receive pay only while working on a specific show or job and don’t get paid again until the next show starts.
In its May 2010 survey, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classified ballerinas as dancers and choreographers. Job prospects for this group as a whole will rise by 11 percent through 2020, compared to a 14 percent rise for all occupations. The number of dance companies tends to remain stable over time, so not many new opportunities for ballerinas arise in traditional arenas. New opportunities may arise, however, for ballerinas dancing on television, in movies, at casinos or at theme parks.