Jump to content
Ballet Talk for Dancers

How many dancers have been named "Prima"

Recommended Posts

I know that the Kirov ballet used to give their most accomplished dancers the title of "Prima Ballerina" (ie; Vaganova, Ulanova...) But I've always wondered how many dancers were actually able to reach this title. Is there a source on the topic somewhere Has anyone been given the title in recent years?


Thanks, Emily :blink:

Link to comment

Any more, the term "prima ballerina" is pretty much a term of journalism, rather than a company rank, even in Russia. The Soviet system pared the terms down. I don't think that Vaganova was prima, but a soloist. The term "principal" is what's used, except in places with a long-establish ranking system like the Paris Opéra. And even there, it's "premiere danseuse" and "etolie", if applicable.

Link to comment

Not really; that title expired with the Romanovs, and is now another creature of the press. However Ulanova was a People's Artist of the Soviet Union, another matter entirely.

Link to comment

Fonteyn was not created an assoluta by the press--she received the title from the Royal Ballet.


At any rate, to answer Emily's question, "Prima Ballerina" simply refers to a principal dancer in Italian (see La Scala's website for its list of Primi Ballerini) and not all companies use the same ranking system. The Paris Opéra Ballet, for example, has a very complex ranking system, and the Mariinsky Ballet has, below principal dancers, first and second soloists.

Link to comment

But that was not a company rank or grade - that was a 1979 Birthday Honour made by Her Majesty under Royal Prerogative. The title doesn't even make the list of regular appointments on the Civil List. And that's a good thing. I suppose that you could say that Legnani and Kschessinska were in the same category by Imperial Favor, and Olga Preobrajenska was kept out by Nicholas II declining her promotion for what reasons, who knows, but I'll bet politics had something to do with it, or possibly family, as Kschessinka was his old girlfriend and was then dating his brother! Tillie would have made life hard for Andrei if she thought she was being replaced! Stalin referred to the title in presenting Ulanova with the Hero of Socialist Labor award, but remember, in his position, he could have called her a cheeseburger, and it would have stuck!


It was Fonteyn's late honor that made the "assoluta" a mere commodity. It's now often used as a gold watch title, of which I would be extremely leery.


Hans is right, though, the titles are everything, and not everybody uses the same ones. The Prima Ballerina of the Rome Opera might not get the same respect in Milan!

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...