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Principal, soloist, corps percentage breakdown

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Recently there were 3 major promotions announced at Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB). I became curious as to how this development would affect the relative percentage composition among the 3 major "ranks" of dancers in a major ballet company like PNB.

PNB now consists of 44 dancers (by my count from PNB's web site). The percentage break-out in round numbers is:

Principal = 30%

Soloist = 20%

Corps = 50%

I wonder how that compares to other "big city" companies?

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In the Royal Danish Ballet there is a total of 86 dancers. The percentages for the different groups of dancers look like this:

Principals = 12%

Soloists = 17%

Character dancers = 9%

Corps = 62%

The amount of principals hasn't been so low for years, a situation probably owing to the fact that many senior dancers have either retired recently (Caroline Cavallo, Rose Gad and Silja Schandorf) or left the company (Nehemiah Kish), and they have not yet been replaced. Probably there will soon be some promotions from the ranks of the soloists, which bursts with talent at the moment, and then the balance between the sizes of the 2 solo-groups will be reestablished.

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Interesting Anne.

Except for the large size of RDB, the percentages are not too different except we have far more principals in relation to corps dancers. We don't have the designation of "character" dancers, but they'd probably mostly be in the soloist category; so the soloist percentage of 20% might be nearly the same in both companies.

In practice, PNB is larger than 44 dancers because we have "apprentices"; we used to have 5 or 6, maybe we have 4 or 5 now (I can't find a place to verify that number). The apprentices often dance as part of the corps, so we are more like 50 dancers with a larger "practical" corps percentage than I have shown. But we are obviously no where near 86 dancers (America vs Europe no doubt.....we Americans are too busy spending GDP on war toys rather than supporting the arts :wink:).

Leaving the size difference aside, my guess as to why PNB has such a larger percentage of principals over corps is that the human beings we call dancers seem to really like living and working in Seattle. In a word, they just don't leave. We have very little attrition, so the dancers just get better and better while staying. Eventually it is just not fair not to promote them. But I'm only speculating.

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Good topic, Sandy. I hope we will hear from fans of many companies.

Miami City Ballet (as of July 2010).

This still reflects the serious down-sizing in the corps that was carried out last year. It also reflects the loss of several soloists (Wong, Baker).

I have included Company and School Apprentices in the breakdown because they seem to be more integral to the Company's performance schedule than they were before the reduction of the corps. MCB seems to use them regularly in larger-cast ballets and, on some occasions, even in smaller cast ballets.

I have not included the one Principal who appears only in about half the programs and is now listed as a Special Guest.

11 Principals (22 %)

5 Principal Soloists and Soloists (10%)

21 Corps de Ballet (42%)

13 Apprentices (Company and School). (26%


50 Total (100%)

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In RDB there are apprentices too, and you are right, SandyMcKean, that they participate as a part of the corps, and should thus be counted too. There are 11 at the moment in Copenhagen, an exceptional high number. Normally they are about 6. Therefore the total number of dancers are in reality 97.

And yes, I know that the old european ballet companies are rather priviledged by having such large support from the governments, which makes it possible to have these large corps, though some of them are facing serious cut downs now too, many of them struggling to keep up the level of their acticities. The biggest priviledge, though, is that we have a real orchestra in the pit. I was shocked when I came to Miami VCity Ballet last year and saw this high-quality company dance to taped music. I hope they will some day succed in getting back the orchestra or finding some of the existing orchestras to cooperate with. But I know it is not easy.

It is nice to hear that the PNB is such a good place to stay. I saw the company once in 2002 when they danced at Sadler's Wells in London, and I was very pleased with what I saw. What I liked most was the diversity and individuality of the dancers.

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Here are the percentages for San Francisco Ballet for the newly announced 2011 roster.

Principals 30%

Soloists 15%

Corps 56%

In view of the economic downturn, it was interesting to see that these percentages do not differ significantly from 2006, although there is a slight shift in distribution. Here are those numbers, not as percentages but separated by male/female.



F 8 M 11


F 6 M 5


F 23 M 17


F 1 M 2


F 38 + M 35 = 73



F 8 M 12


F 5 M 5


F 23 M 16


F-1 M-3


F 37 + M 36 = 73

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