Sarah Lamb, a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet in London.

A principal dancer (often shortened to principal) is a dancer at the highest rank within a professional dance company, particularly a ballet company.

A principal may be male or female. The position is similar to that of soloist; however, principals regularly perform not only solos, but also pas de deux. Principal dancers can be hired into a dance company or can also be a company dancer that is a corps de ballet dancer that gets promoted from within the company. That process can take multiple performance seasons or even years to achieve based on skill level and company interest. It is a coveted position in the company and the most prominent position a dancer can receive. The term is used mostly in ballet but can be used in other forms as well, such as modern dance. They are usually the star of the ballet. The term senior principal dancer is sometimes used as well.[1]

Synonyms and origin

The Italian derived term prima ballerina (female dancers) (primo ballerino for male dancers) or the French derived term[2] premier danseur (male dancers) have been used to denote similar levels of prominence to the Principal Dancer. In the Paris Opera Ballet, principal dancers receive the title of Danseur Étoile.

Current principal dancers

Royal Ballet

American Ballet Theatre

(as of 2018-2019 seasons)

Martha Graham Modern Dance Company

(as of 2018-2019 seasons)

Miami City Ballet

New York City Ballet

Bolshoi Ballet Company


  1. ^ "Senior Principal dancer". English National Ballet. Archived from the original on March 17, 2011. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  2. ^ "the definition of danseur noble". Retrieved 2019-03-26.
  3. ^ "Meet our Dancers". Miami City Ballet. Retrieved 2023-03-08.
  4. ^ "Meet our Dancers | New York City Ballet". Retrieved 2023-03-08.