The world of ballet is full of dancers who dream of making a living from their passion for the art form. But in truth, professional ballet dancing is a cut-throat industry where talent is analysed with a fine-tooth comb and anything less than perfection is rarely tolerated. The odds of actually “making it” in the ballet industry with a major dance company such as the New York City Ballet or the Bolshoi Ballet are very slim, but there are smaller companies around the world that do their best to support their dancers. With the physical and mental demands and time-intensive nature of ballet training, serious dancers must be employed on a full-time salary. A company’s investment in their dancers can certainly be worth it, because when a professional dance group has a strong reputation, tickets can be sold for major profit.
When a dancer first joins a company, they form part of a group called the Corps de Ballet, and they typically start as ensemble dancers in the background. If a dancer is part of the union known as American Guild of Musical Artists (also known as AGMA), they have a degree of protection, in that they’re entitled to at least a minimum wage that is livable and at a set scale. The industry – as with so many of the capricious, competitive arts industries – is notoriously underpaid, with the majority of dancers working long hours for very little financial reward. Payscale cites the average ballet dancer’s salary as a tiny $15,080 – $26,419. Midlevel dancers, often soloists, could earn as much as $50,000-$58,000 a year. In the aspirational case, celebrated principal dancers can earn a couple of thousand dollars per performance.
There is no doubt that in order to become a rich ballet dancer, it takes hard work, and sometimes dancing for multiple companies at once. But to become one of the richest ballet dancers in the world, a certain amount of fame and hard work is also needed. Many of the wealthiest ballet dancers on our list have made their name and their wealth through branching out into choreography, producing, or even acting and modelling. We’ve selected five of the richest dancers in the industry – and, compared to the five richest actors or singers, the salaries are diminutive. Ballet, one of the most highly-skilled performing professions, is also one of the least financially rewarding. The dedicated, talented dancers on our list got there through hard work, passion and – quite possibly – a financial struggle. The salaries we’ve cited are based on a variety of factors from per performance earnings, yearly earnings, and net worth.
5. Nina Ananiashvili – $30,000 per performance
Nina Ananiashvili is a Georgian ballerina and the current artistic director of the State Ballet of Georgia. She recently hung up her ballet shoes after an illustrious career as a prima ballerina earning about $30,000 per performance. She originally trained not as a dancer as an ice skater. Because she was a sickly child, her parents encouraged her to take up figure skating in order to build her strength. Nina started ballet training to complement her skating, but eventually abandoned skating altogether and began training as a ballet dancer. Her career took off after studying at the Moscow Choreographic Institute where her talent captured the attention of her instructors. From this point on her career sky-rocketed, and Nina eventually made waves in the United States becoming a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre and later the Houston Ballet.