Talk:Ballet dancer

Active discussions

Redirect "prima ballerina"Edit

This page has a link to the wikipedia article "prima ballerina" which in turn redirects back here. I don't know if that's a problem since I'm not so sure about the way Wikipedia works, but I just wanted to point that out.

Thanks --Ghirlandajo 18:51, 19 December 2005 (UTC)
It was my fault: I wikified "prima ballerina" and did not realize the redirect. I've repaired the two pages. --Roland2 20:41, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

general ballet facts?Edit

the part about ballet terminology originating in france should probably be under ballet rather than ballerina. i'm not sure if im just supposed to change it or not, i'm new to wikipedia.

Ilovemonsters 04:17, 29 December 2006 (UTC)


Does interest anybody that the correct Italian plural for prima ballerina is:

prime ballerine

and for prima ballerina assoluta is:

prime ballerine assolute

Just to be fair to the original language... Gioland71 (talk) 21:06, 17 March 2008 (UTC)

loan wordsEdit

I mostly work in the Scandinavian languages; and Swedish, at least, handles loan words well; English does not. "Ballerina" has been made a naturalized citizen, plural "ballerinas;" and, for lack of plural adjectives in English, "prima ballerina" becomes "prima ballerinas", which isn't so bad. While "prima ballerina assolutas" is wrong on all counts, neither you nor I are going to get the rest of the English speaking world to change their wicked ways. While fifty million Frenchman can be wrong — and on the Internet often are — Google remains an effective way of determining usage. Prima ballerina assolutas has 21 "hits" vs. 9 for prime ballerine assolute and prima ballerinas 19,900 to 1,690 for prime ballerine; if one restricts the searches to English the figures become more extreme; 12:1 and 18,400:40. Pity the poor male ballet dancer, with foreign sounding danseur or ballerino to describe what he is! Robert Greer 23:52, 18 March 2008 (UTC)

If you type in "assolutas" by itself on Google, you get 5,300,000 hits. Interesting. Wallie (talk) 21:59, 28 January 2009 (UTC)


This is why I haven't changed the entry. It would be silly to try to teach Italian to hordes of English people, but it still pains my ears to hear "pizzas" "calzonis", "gelatos", "ballerinas", "lattes" etc.. It would be fair though to point this out in the article, so that the English speakers are aware that this is not a perfect loan - and won't use it while visiting Florence. In Italian we use "footing" as translation for "jogging", but this must be pointed out in the corresponding entry so that Italians do not sound like idiots if they tell their friends in the UK 'they're going "footing"'. Gioland71 (talk) 16:51, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

Reference deskEdit

I've raised this issue at Wikipedia:Reference desk/Language#Plural of prima ballerina/assoluta, but it's received very little traffic, probably because relatively few people have heard of "prima ballerina assoluta" and have never considered an optimal way of pluralising it for an English audience that doesn't necessarily know much or anything about ballet jargon. I still like "prima ballerinas assoluta". I know this will outrage Italians. However, let me make my case. Prima and assoluta are both adjectives, and the only reason we separate them with ballerina is that we're importing the whole term from Italian, and that's the order they use. But if we can say "prima ballerinas", which treats both words as if they were English - and in English we pluralise nouns but not adjectives - then why not apply the same principle to assoluta? If the Italian term happened to be "assoluta prima ballerina", nobody would object to "assoluta prima ballerinas" in English. Merely changing the word order shouldn't have any implications for the spelling of assoluta. Whatever we do, the current "Among her pupils were two Prima Ballerina Assoluta ..." @ Tamara Karsavina seems to me to be the worst of all the options. -- JackofOz (talk) 22:00, 16 September 2008 (UTC)

An Italian/English speaker's perspective: I would generally agree that, being prima ballerina assoluta a locution made up of three loan words, each of them should follow its own English grammatical rule. Keep in mind that, though, the locution comes to English through Russian - that is, while a generic ballerina is a real English loan word, prima ballerina assoluta is actually something that exists in Russia in some ballet companies... So how do Russians call more than one prima ballerina assoluta? If the article is talking about the Bolshoi ranking system, we should conform to their usage. In all other cases (ballerinas, pizzas, paninis, villas, to name a few in my language), a small note pointing out that it is not a perfect loan (possibly with the native language correct spelling) should do. Gioland71 (talk) 18:50, 17 September 2008 (UTC)
I know some Russian, and I would imagine that Russians would either (a) treat the term as if it were Russian, and come up with прими балерини ассолути (** NO, THIS IS WRONG, SEE BELOW) - primi balerini assoluti; or (b) they may have their own homegrown Russian version that replaces prima ballerina assoluta with the equivalent Russian words. I'm not at all sure, however, that just because the term originated in Russia and not Italy, we can treat it as if it were Russian. Fonteyn was an assoluta, and I somehow can't see her using the Russianised Italian. -- JackofOz (talk) 22:50, 17 September 2008 (UTC)
Better use some Anglicized Italian, then??? Gioland71 (talk) 01:00, 18 September 2008 (UTC)
The wicket is even stickier (I too had some Russian, three years in high school, but it's so rusty I don't ordinarily mention it.) Though the term is originally Italian, the Russian court spoke primarily French — in some cases exclusively so, or so they claimed — as did Petipa of course. Legnani was Italian, and I assume Petipa spoke that language as well. So we have an Italian phrase passed through Russian or French or both in one order or the other, now mangled by the English speaking world.
The correct prime ballerine and prime ballerine assolute are non-starters because the word prime has its own meaning in English, referring variously to the interest rate, rib of beef, real estate and numbers. The real question is whether Wikipedia is to reflect or to correct the "real world" — and whether it can or could accomplish the latter. — Robert Greer (talk) 13:50, 18 September 2008 (UTC)
I've discovered that the Russian for "prima donna" is the single word примадонна (primadonna). That probably doesn't help in the slightest, but I present it here anyway, just in case. -- JackofOz (talk) 00:16, 19 September 2008 (UTC)
** I've also discovered that the Russian for "prima ballerina" is the hyphenated примa-балеринa (prima-balerina). The plural is примы-балерины (primy-baleriny; I knew my Russian was rusty). This appears in my Oxford Russian-English Dictionary. But it makes no mention of "prima ballerina assoluta" at all, let alone its plural, which is surprising given the Russian (if not Russian-language) origin of the term. -- JackofOz (talk) 00:28, 19 September 2008 (UTC)
I'm on a roll. Another option that's just occurred to me is "prima ballerinas assoluta". I quite like that one. -- JackofOz (talk) 00:56, 19 September 2008 (UTC)
Sticky indeed! primi ballerini is in Italian the collective plural noun (for a number of primi ballerini + prime ballerine, not only the plural for primo ballerino). I checked on the Bolshoi site and they have primi-balerini (well in Cyrillic, I can read that much) for the group made of male and female principal dancers. My objection to Robertgreer is that prime ballerine is a whole locution, and I guess that English speaking people would understand that. My vote goes to finding whatever is the most used English locution (Google will help doing that), then add the English variants, and finally add a note with the Russian and the Italian forms to dissipate any doubts. Same for prima ballerina assoluta. Gioland71 (talk) 17:40, 19 September 2008 (UTC)
English speakers who know their ballet terminology would not be troubled by prime ballerine, but the general reader would definitely be stopped in their tracks. Having never encountered it before, they'd assume prime was pronounced with 1 syllable rather than 2, and ballerine with 3 syllables rather than 4, and they'd wonder what this term meant. Stopping readers in their tracks is an absolute no-no as far as I as a writer am concerned. We have to write for the general reader. We'd have to have a note explaining what the term means, and how to pronounce it correctly, which would defeat the purpose of having it in the first place. I really don't see any problem with having "prima ballerinas"; that's what most everyone would use ("In walked 3 prima donnas and 4 prima ballerinas"). It's prima ballerina assoluta that's presenting the conundrum. Because historically there have been so few of them, it's very rare to need the plural at all, as evidenced by there being a total lack of information about the correct or accepted form in an English-speaking context (I of course accept the Italians have prime ballerine assolute, but for the general English reader that presents even worse problems than prime ballerine). It was only when I read about Karsavina having trained "two Prima Ballerina [sic] Assoluta" that my brain did a back-flip and I thought we had to come up with something better than that. Hence this discussion. -- JackofOz (talk) 21:57, 19 September 2008 (UTC)
There is no need to do back-flips over a plural. Given what I have read so far, we should give our readers no credit. Hence, the most likely English spelling would be "prima ballerina assolutas" because it is obvious that the noun must be the last one, just like in "first principal dancers". What really bothers me is the idiotic wikipedia guidelines: while documenting myself, I realised that they favour the "mock-up" pronunciation over the IPA (for English), the use of the English spelling over the native ones, so that English people can rightly teach a Sweden how to spell Bjorn Borg, and recommend people to use the Anglicized pronunciation of foreign words, even if they are not yet absorbed into English!!! And the level of knowledge of the people who made these recommendations is frankly abysmal; some of them didn't even know that the "standard" pronunciation of some terms changes whether they are nouns or verbs! Or that it is not really Kosher to make a verb out of any word! Gioland71 (talk) 15:06, 24 September 2008 (UTC)
In reality, it's not the English language that has chopped and changed ballet terminology - EVERYONE has. As for the list of prima ballerina assoluta(s), I don't think many people have given it that much though, considering that a list of people with the title can be written on the back of a postage stamp. Being English, I automatically pluralise it with an s, as would most English people, so this being the English Wikipedia, I would tend to say that is correct. If this were the French or Italian editions, although the French would absolutely use the term Etoile, so that's a different matter. Personally I don't think it matters all that much. Being a professional dancer, it always suprises me how much the ballet vocabulary has been played around with in other countries around the world, to the point now where in France some of the more advanced terminology no longer means anything in actual French. And I did just want to point out that in Russia, they absolutely do not Russify the ballet terminology. Even today, pupils at both the Bolshoi and Vaganova schools are expected to learn French to better understand and correctly use the French terminology, hence why so many Russians through the ages have spoken fluent French and still do today. Crazy-dancing (talk) 09:50, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

Some possible corrections...Edit

I feel like there should be some reference here to the fact that, to dancers, "ballerina" refers specifically to a professional dancer, as opposed to just anyone who studies ballet. Also, in addition to the information on the original rankings it should have the rankings as they are commonly used today (principal, soloist, and corps are the terms I've usually heard). Lastly, I'm pretty sure that "big wenny" is spam- I've never heard that before, either legitimately or as an insult, but the lack of capitalization or punctuation leads me to believe its a joke on someone's part. Actually, I'm not sure about any of the names for professional male ballet dancers; Aren't they just a "ballet dancer"? The only other term I've seen is "danseur"- "ballet man" and "ballet master" seem antiquated. (talk) 06:07, 7 April 2008 (UTC)

"Ballet master" usually refers to a teacher in the more advanced classes/professional level - more or less the male equivalent of "ballet mistress". In English I heard "dancer" or "danseur" for a male dancer. As for the rankings, I have no clue whether there are official rankings in the main companies - in Italy (teatro alla Scala) they have primo ballerino for the main male performer and étoile for both male and female primi ballerini assoluti. Gioland71 (talk) 16:59, 9 April 2008 (UTC)
A male ballet dancer in the U.S. is called either a danseur or a ballerino (I use the former, but Google says the latter is not much less common.) Ballet dancer may refer either to a male or female dancer; and a ballerina, though usually a working dancer (i.e. a company member, current or former), need not be. Ballet man is not merely antiquated; it's bizarre! The only credible occurence of the term is in the title of the book, Jerome Robbins: That Broadway Man, That Ballet Man, by Christine Conrad, and the word that changes the context entirely. — Robert Greer (talk) 13:45, 23 September 2008 (UTC)
I live in Canada, and definitely danseur is more common than ballerino (anecdotal evidence), but that can be explained by the fact that French is an official language and learned in school, therefore people have a greater inclination to use French terms than Italian ones. Gioland71 (talk) 13:04, 22 September 2008 (UTC)

This article was a mess. It needs to be bigger, better researched and...well, I guess that's it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:33, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

Prove it!Edit

More fundamental than spelling is the question of whether the many claims of prima ballerina assoluta are accurate. What is the evidence? Prove it!

"The only two ballerinas to hold the title Prima ballerina assoluta in the Soviet Union were Galina Ulanova and Maya Plisetskaya". The Soviet Union had nothing to do with the title, and if it did you need to produce chapter and verse. Prima ballerina assoluta was awarded by the Tsar to two great ballerinas of the St. Petersburg Academy of the Imperial Ballet. They were: Thamar Karsavina and Anna Pavlova, both of whom later danced in the Diaghilev Ballets Russes (though Pavlova's own company was perhaps her greatest period). These are the only two I find listed in Cyril Beaumont's A short history of ballet (London 1933), plus, of course, Margot Fonteyn later (for which there is conclusive evidence). Also dubious is the idea that a choreographer like Petipa, however esteemed, would have the authority to make such a decision as suggested for Pierina Legnani.

I challenge you to produce reliable evidence from recognised printed sources for any of the other claims in that section, which I think are all mistaken. The mere fact that Karsavina was not mentioned in the article, and Pavlova specifically denied, increases my scepticism (Beaumont is quite clear that she was awarded the title, and if he was wrong the matter needs to be proved).

If I'm right about all this, there's still room for an article along the lines of "Prima ballerinas and others", though the criteria might be an issue. If you think I'm wrong, then please prove it! See WP:Reliable sources. Macdonald-ross (talk) 10:32, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

Sorry it took me so long to respond to your comment. There are no sources in English that could prove anything. Beaumont's "A short history of ballet" is hardly a reliable source on the particulars of Russian matters. Beaumont produced several supplements and updated versions of his books (I have them all), but he still was never able to research Russia properly. Ballet history is an area that is rampant with incorrect information and misconceptions...a lot of this has to do with the fact that Russia was cut off from the western world for so long, and many of the emigrés, all of whom were in old age by the time "ballet history" became a serious subject, helped spread the misconceptions. Early published sources (such as Beaumont) could only use secondary sources when it came to Russian ballet history, and unfortunately he is still looked at something of an authority in this regard in spite of the fact that he got so many things wrong in his books (not his fault, however!). A colleague and I have been working on a book on the life and ballets of the composers Cesare Pugni, Ludwig Minkus and Riccardo Drigo for some time, and in the process of researching I have realized how frustrating researching western sources is with regard to Russia (this is one of the reasons why - I think - Ivor Guest never really dealt with Russia...he could never research it properly in his time).
Anyway, Pavlova and Karsavina were never named "assoluta" of the Imperial Theatre (Kschessinskaya would have never allowed Karsavina to attain such a title anyway, and Pavlova left the Imperial Theatre too early in her career to have been able to attain such a title). Legnani was indeed the first, and in my opinion the only, ballerina to really be named "assoluta", while Kschessinskaya obtained this title primarily through her connections at court. There isn't one source that can corroborate this, but rather many sources that one must sort of "piece together". Plescheyev's "Our Ballet" (only available in Russian) and "Marius Petipa, Materials..." (only in Russian), among many other Russian sources, mention that Petipa named Legnani "assoluta" in 1894, given the fact the she was such an extraordinary ballerina. Unfortunately, Legnani's career is often over shadowed in Russian sources by their attention to the lives and careers of native ballerinas, and it is obvious why this went on for so long (even Petipa's reputation was tarnished by Russian historians who made the ridiculous claim that he stole credit for Lev Ivanov's ballets, something many in the ballet world still believe to this day). The title of "assoluta" never was, from what I can tell, an "official" title, and it is my suspicion that Kschessinska merely had "assoluta" printed on her posters and programs by using her connections at court, and this is really how she obtained the "title" in question.
--Mrlopez2681 (talk) 20:37, 26 April 2010 (UTC)
On behalf of all of us in this area, I thank you for this detailed and relevant contribution. At some stage we need to bring all this together on pages such as List of prima ballerina assolutas. We will probably need to distinguish between the few who were officially appointed, and the others who, like (I would say) Markova, who are held to be PBA by acclaim. Personally, I reached the stage some time ago, when further debate on the subject seemed not productive. All forms of dance suffer from the lack of top-quality reference books which are found in music and science. This makes our job so much more difficult. Anyway, you have thrown a light on Russian dance which is most interesting. Macdonald-ross (talk) 09:54, 27 April 2010 (UTC)

Proposed solution to the pba problemEdit

The solution I propose for deciding the status of ballerinas in WP biogs is to choose a standard reference work as the adjudicator in difficult cases. The work I propose is;

Mary Clarke and David Vaughan (eds) 1977. The encyclopedia of dance & ballet. Pitmans, London.

The contributors to this volume were of high calibre, and the work contains mini-biogs of all the reasonable candidates for pb or pba. It only remains to decide whether any state or major company used an equivalent, but different title. On examining cases, I would suggest the following:

The USSR award of Hero of Socialist Labour (its highest award to a civilian), and its highest exclusively artistic national title was People's Artist of the USSR. Both these titles should be regarded as equivalent to pba when awarded to a ballerina. Ulanova held both these titles, so we can accept her as pba.
The French title of Étoile is equivalent to Prima ballerina when applied to a female dancer; likewise any other title that is higher than Principal Dancer.

The grounds for or against pba should be noted on all candidate biogs; any who claimed pba which cannot be verified should be placed in pb category. What this achieves is to give us a framework for making decisions; there will still be difficult cases, but we will no longer be dependent on web-site myths. Macdonald-ross (talk) 16:19, 14 August 2009 (UTC)

In a similar vein to the above, the title of Dame is the highest honour that can be bestowed on a woman in the United Kingdom and has been given to a number of leading British ballerinas. Many of them also have exclusively artistic awards and honours, so surely they should also 'qualify' for recognition as Prima Ballerina Assoluta, namely Alicia Markova, Beryl Grey, Doreen Wells, Merle Park, Lynn Seymour, Antoinette Sibley, Moira Shearer etc. All of them have been Prima Ballerina of the Royal Ballet at some point in their career, have been given state honours and all have other highly regarded awards and honours in recognition of their contributions to the arts. Crazy-dancing (talk) 14:44, 6 September 2009 (UTC)

More contradictionsEdit

Again, there is more evidence to mudddy the waters. La Scala still use the titles Prima Ballerina and Prima Ballerina Assoluta, but they call them Etoiles. In the case of their Assoluta, they are titled Resident Guest Artist, and so they recognise Alessandra Ferri as a PBA for example and this would also apply to Roberto Bolle, who should correctly be titled a Premier Danseur Noble. Unfortunately, the use of the title Resident Guest Artist to denote the rank of PBA throws up questions about other companies use of similar titles. With the Royal Ballet for example, Carlos Acosta, Roberto Bolle, and Miyako Yoshinda are all ranked as Principal Guest Artists, which again is one step above the other principals and is the equivalent of La Scala's Prima Ballerina Assoluta rank. In contrast to La Scala though, the Paris Opera use Etoile to denote their 'star' dancers, but without inferring that they are PBAs, although perhaps they are regarded as Prima Ballerinas, am not entirely sure. Ultimately, the idea that there is ONE way of defining a Prima Ballerina Assoluta can only be a myth and in reality, each country has adopted its own way of identifying its favourite ballerinas. In Russia they recognise the one and only ultimate living dancer, in the UK they are given the title by Royal appointment, in Italy the title is an active rank within the company structure and yes, in some countries they may just be recognised by general consensus amongst the paying public. 10:41, 16 August 2009 (UTC)Crazy-dancing (talk)

What a muddleEdit

This article is trying to be two different things, or more likely different editors have tried to make it two different things. It is the main and only article describing the ranking system in professional ballet (ballet dancer is a redirect to ballet, which says nothing on the matter), and it is also the article about the specific rank of "ballerina".

There is a second muddle. The article tends towards supporting the claim that "ballerina" means "female principal dancer". For some reason some balletomanes are stubbornly attached to this belief, but it simply won't wash. I can't find a single leading professional company that uses the term ballerina in that way, whether in Russia, France, Italy, Denmark, Germany, the UK or the U.S. This meaning of "ballerina" is obsolete, and it is misleading to record it other than as a former meaning, now superseded. To the man in the street, to the Oxford English Dictionary, and to most people in professional ballet in the 21st century "ballerina" simply means "[any] female ballet dancer". [With the qualification that within professional ballet only it means a professional dancer, but we can put that distinction to one side as we aren't going to have any articles about amateur female ballet dancers]. For example the Royal Ballet has posted a video to YouTube called "A Day in the Life of a Ballerina" which is about a soloist. Wikipedia must describe things as they are, not as some people would like them to be.

What I would propose is that this article should be moved to ballet dancer and reconfigured so that its main thrust is a description of the ranking system for ballet dancers. This would incorporate an explanation of all the uses of the word "ballerina" along with similar information about other ranks. Prima ballerina assoluta should be a separate article, with the content here merged with that of List of prima ballerina assolutas.

Any comments? Luwilt (talk) 02:51, 6 June 2010 (UTC)

I agree! It seems the first muddle had been figured out by now, as ballet dancer is now located here, previously at ballerina. I've fixed the second muddle by removing the stipulation of principal from the definition of ballerina. Thank you for laying out the condition of the article so succinctly. Dkreisst (talk) 22:14, 6 February 2012 (UTC)

dab/redirect hilarityEdit

This is currently a disambiguation page in which the sole two links within it (danseur and ballerina) go to the same page: ballerina. I propose that the contents of ballerina get returned to this page as the title is gender neutral and gender differences could be dealt with within the article. and that the articles danseur and ballerina get redirected here. Thoughts? Dkreisst (talk) 06:15, 3 February 2012 (UTC)

  Done. This page now hosts the article. The pages for ballerina and danseur are now redirects to this page. Dkreisst (talk) 22:01, 6 February 2012 (UTC)

Is this a scare story, or an article?Edit

Can we have more information about ballet dancers, ballet dancing, and ballet training, and less in depth detail about how you're almost certain to end up injured or crippled for life if you try to become a ballet dancer? You'd swear this article was written by some girls mother who wanted to discourage her from trying out for ballet classes by listing all the terrible things that are sure to happen if she does. I'm not sure if they qualify as "weasel words", but what exactly is a "high rate of injury"? How high? What percentage of dancers end up injured? How does that number relate to other occupations and pastimes like sports? Football has a "high rate of injury" as well, but that doesn't mean that most people who engage in it end up crippled for life. I mean, in the modern world, an occupation that saw 1 in 100 workers suffer injuries as a result of the job, it'd be considered extremely dangerous. And it depends on how long you do the job too; I think it should differentiate between amateur ballet dancers and professional ones. I'm going out on a limb and assuming most of the serious injuries, or the ones that "show up later in life" are suffered by professional dancers, not amateur teenage girls taking a few years of ballet classes. A few broken bones, strained muscles and shin splints are nothing a typical high school athlete isn't already risking. Is ballet really so much worse as this article seems to suggest? A mother reading this article after her daughter expressed interest in taking ballet classes is going to be appalled, and say "no", because it makes it sound like ballet dancing is extremely dangerous, and is inevitably going to cause serious, long term, and debilitating injury. which I suspect is a serious exaggeration. And the article says nothing about the positive things about ballet. I'd say training to become a ballet dancer probably has a lot of certain positive effects as well as the potential negative effects. Why else would people bother sending their sons and daughters off to ballet class, even those who have no real intention of ever becoming professional ballet dancers? It keeps you very fit, teaches you dedication and perseverance against difficulty, focus, balance and grace. Yet from reading this article, you could come away with the idea that anyone who allows their kid to enter into ballet training is merely a sadist who really just enjoys the idea of sending them off to suffer needlessly under a brutal training regimen until the inevitable moment when they are crippled for life (like every ballet dancer eventually is, due to the "very high rate of injuries"). .45Colt 05:50, 20 December 2015 (UTC)

Gender-specific titles?Edit

The first paragraph describes what are pretty much expected behaviors of French and Italian, gender-based languages, which are fixated on gender on pretty much all kinds of words. Not sure if "traditionally" is even used correctly here, of if these words should even be stressed as "gender-specific titles". Would a gender-indeterminate ballet dancers be referred to as "danseur", "ballerino" or "danzatore"? For this paragraph to be relevant? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2402:800:637C:BE33:F154:338A:7708:F555 (talk) 08:34, 15 July 2019 (UTC)

Return to "Ballet dancer" page.