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What Classifies one as a Professional Dancer?


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As I intensify my training, I was wondering what qualifies one as a professional dancer? Is it a dancer that has completed pre-professional or professional training programs? Is it a dancer who dances for a professional ballet company? Is it a dancer who receives their BFA or MFA in dance?


Even though I'm an adult dancer who started late in my ballet training, I've been accepted into a pre professional 2 year program at a very well respected ballet academy here locally. This fall I will officially be a member of their pre-professional company (ensemble). Luckily, the company that I am training with has a strong relationship with DTH (as the directors are DTH alum) and when we had a masterclass with a DTH principal dancer they advised me on the professional training program that I should look into after I finish up this pre-professional program which I'm very interested in pursuing.


I already know that it would be unlikely that I would become a prima ballerina at a major ballet company but my goals are a bit different when it comes to what I want to do with my ballet training. I just wanted to get an idea of what is considered a professional dancer in this industry.


Thanks in advance for the feedback :)

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A professional dancer is one who earns a living in the industry. Most young ballet dancers have to start as a either a trainee or apprentice, and work their way up into the regular company. As a trainee they may not be paid anything, or just get shoes and a stipend per performance, which, with some companies is a contracted position with the company, and others it is considered a part of the school. If the dancers are part of the school, they are not yet professionals. Apprentices with a professional company are usually on contract and paid, however the pay scale is not the same as a full company member.


So, if one has a professional company contract, then one is considered a professional.

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Thank you for the information.


What is the difference between a pre-professional program and a trainee program? Is it that the trainee program is a guaranteed spot into a company?

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No, a pre-professional program is for students of varying ages who are accepted into a school's program which is for professional level training, as opposed to recreational. These programs exist in all company schools, all residence and conservatory programs, and many schools which are not that large or famous, but have the quality of teaching and the quantity of classes needed for serious professionally minded students.


A trainee program consists of highly selected students, usually recently graduated from high school, who will be considered for the professional company or be prepared to audition for other companies. There are no guarantees anywhere in ballet!

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Thinking on normal office job terms: Trainee equals intern during trial period. They get first dibs at the next job opening if they stay impressive.

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However, not always in the ballet world. Trainees range from paid positions with shoe and health benefits to non-paid top level of the school paying tuition.

Apprentice, Trainee, Pre-pro are terms that seem to have different definitions from company to company.

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Paid & non paid interns maybe?

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If they stay impressive are the key words there. There is no guarantee that anyone will get a full contract. Company members are all year to year.

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