I would like to have characters for "dancer" engraved on a present for a female friend of mine.
What would be the most appropriate?
If you are serious, I don't think any word like 舞娘 or 尬舞 is a good choice. (Probably 舞娘 is from the song by Jolin Tsai.) 舞蹈家 is a title for professional and experienced dancers. I don't know if your friend could be called a 舞蹈家, so if yes, just go with 舞蹈家. But 舞者 would always be a good translation.
舞娘 means a girl who dance for a living and kind of professional.like geisha 舞蹈家 a master in some kind of dance.like Isadora Duncan. 舞者 A general name of people who like dance.like street dancer. in your case,i suggest you figure out what kind of dance does your friend master,then intoduce she as:跳street dance的(a street dance people)
I have many questions about the nature of the gift, style of engraving you're thinking about using, and whether your female friend has a passion for dancing / dances for a living / is taking dance lessons and aspires to be a dancer, etc., and also, why do you want to engrave "dancer" on this gift.
The answers would help me to tailor a complete answer to your question. In other words, the answer to your question isn't straightforward.
The other answers here already gave you many different translations for "dancer", along with the connotations and usage. As you can see, "dancer" still carries a negative connotation in this day and age.
If you're looking to encapsulate a passion for dance, why not simply engrave "舞" ? Dance. Just Dance.