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Ballet Company 101

You may have heard the term ‘ballet company’ but what does it really mean and how does it function? Learn about what is the structure of a Ballet Company, the typical dancer tiers, and how dancers move through the tiers.

Let’s demystify three FAQs about Ballet Companies…

What is the typical structure of a Ballet Company?

A ballet company typically consists of a group of professional-level dancers, managerial and support staff, and an Artistic Director.

The head of the company is called the Artistic Director. In most companies, directors are often former dancers who choreograph some or all of the productions, are in charge of deciding what productions the company will offer, and promote dancers through the levels of the company.

What are the typical tiers of ballet company dancers?

In the United States ballet dancers in a professional company are typically divided into three tiers or ranks: corps de ballet, soloist, and principal.

  • Corps de ballet literally means the “body” of the ballet company — they form the backbone of the company. This is where most of a ballet company’s dancers are. These dancers usually are in the big group dances, working together as one unit to create patterns and full scenes. They also are cast in supporting roles, like the party-goers or townspeople.

  • Soloist — If the Artistic Director sees that a dancer in the Corps de Ballet really shines and excels technically, they may promote the dancer to the Soloist level to take on featured solo roles that show off their abilities.

  • Principal - Principal dancers have top-notch technical ability combined with beautiful artistry and storytelling. As the lead in the ballet, they carry key elements of the story. So not only do they have outstanding technical capabilities, they also have the ability to connect and communicate emotions and ideas to the audience.

How do dancers move through the tiers/levels?

For most ballet companies, the Artistic Director is the one who promotes dancers through the levels of the company. Typically large companies hold auditions for multiple dancers to create their performing company.


About Ballet Theatre San Luis Obispo

Our Performing Company represents our dancers with the deepest level of commitment and dedication to our Productions. They are the artists that are committed to presenting our stories and representing our excellence on stage.

Our Artistic Director, leadership team, support staff, and each member of our Performing Company lead this arts community that we are so passionate about. Together, we work to carry out our mission of continuing the traditions and practices of classical ballet through training and performance in the San Luis Obispo area.

The Performing Company of Ballet Theatre San Luis Obispo

Principal Dancers

Lead Roles


Featured Roles


Corps de Ballet

In addition to our Performing Company, our Performing Productions feature these key cast members:

Key Supporting Cast Members

​Guest Artists

Professional dancers hired for specific roles.

Youth Cast

Performing Students at our School: Youth Ballet, Youth Performing Groups 1 and 2.

Adult Cast

Adult dancers participating in a specific performance.

How do dancers move through the tiers/levels at BT-SLO?

At Ballet Theatre San Luis Obispo, we do not require auditions to participate in our shows or join our Performing Company. Rather, we ask dancers to take regular classes at BT-SLO to see how they might participate in our Productions.

Invitations to join the company are based on the minimum age (14 years old), technique development, and commitment to regular classes and performances.

Our Artistic Director personally knows each of our dancers' commitment, progression, and capabilities. The tiers are determined by the casting and each individual’s level in each Production throughout the Performing Season.

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