Two ballet dancers performing a move together on stage. Photo by Kazuo ota on Unsplash

If you love to dance, you might dream of gracing the stage as a professional ballet dancer. But behind the glamour and beauty of this career lie years of rigorous training and extreme discipline. These steps are essential to developing a successful career in ballet.

Do you have what it takes to go from this...

Little girls at a ballet class learning to jump.

A graceful ballerina spinning on stage. this?

Start training as soon as possible

The first step in your journey toward a career in ballet is to start dancing as soon as possible. Most professional ballet dancers started regular lessons by the age of 8 and pre-professional ballet programs by the age of 14.

A group of young ballerinas practicing at the barre. Photo by Jill Marv on Unsplash

If you're a teen with little or no training, you'll likely have an extremely difficult path to becoming a professional ballet dancer, but don't be discouraged!

  • It's never too late to do ballet for the love of it! ❤️

  • In other dance forms, like jazz, contemporary, and ballroom dancing, starting age is less important.Learning ballet in recreational programs can serve as a good foundation for dance careers in these styles. 🎵

  • An alternative to dancing professionally is to become a dance teacher! Look for high-quality dance education programs at universities to explore your options. 🎓

Lucille Ball dancing the Charleston during a ballet class.

Work harder than everyone else

Once you are enrolled in a pre-professional ballet training program (which usually starts anywhere from 13-15 years of age), you can expect dance to become a huge part of your daily routine.

Dancers at this stage train as many as 30 hours per week, refining the skills they need to become elite-level artists. During this time, you'll also need to fulfill your regular school duties, which can make it difficult to maintain an active social life.

The feet of dancers moving in a dance studio.

Discipline and time management are keyat this stage. The important thing is to practice, practice, practice!

Lucille Ball learning how to dance ballet. A teacher shows her how to make a stance.


Sara is a promising 14 year-old ballet student. She has recently begun a pre-professional ballet training program and is unsure of what to expect. What advice should you give her?

Win competitions

Once you begin your pre-professional ballet training, you can prepare for the many international ballet competitions held yearly. Some of the more prestigious competitions are:

  • The Prix de Lausanne

  • Youth America Grand Prix

  • The World Ballet Competition

Ranking highly in these competitions is important: you can meet fellow dancers, raise your international profile as an up-and-coming dancer, win scholarships to ballet companies' trainee programs, and even get job contracts from companies.

A ballerina performing a variation from Swan Lake.


Bobby is a ballet dancer preparing for a prestigious competition. If he does well, which of the following are possible outcomes?

Join a ballet company

By age 18, you should ideally be ready to audition for a ballet company. Few company positions open up each year and lots of talented dancers vie for each one.

A character from the Hunger Games saying,

Don't expect to get rich. While salaries vary depending on your rank within a company, the company's prestige, and location, the median salary for US-based ballet dancers in 2018 was less than 40, 000 dollars per year.

Also, plan for a second career, as most ballet dancers retire by their late 30s due to the strain ballet puts on the body. Possible careers for former dancers include:

  • Arts administrator 💼

  • Choreographer 💃

  • Dance teacher 🎓

Pointe shoes hanging from a wall. Photo by Elena Kloppenburg on Unsplash

Take Action

If you're considering whether to pursue ballet on a professional level, ask yourself:

Even if you cannot (or don't want to) become a professional dancer, it's never too late to pursue any kind of dance as a passion!

A ballerina dancing in a contemporary pop style.


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