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A ballet master (also balletmaster, ballet mistress [increasingly archaic], premier maître de ballet or premier maître de ballet en chef) is an employee of a ballet company who is responsible for the level of competence of the dancers in their company. In modern times, ballet masters are generally charged with teaching the daily company ballet class and rehearsing the dancers for both new and established ballets in the company's repertoire. The artistic director of a ballet company, whether a male or female, may also be called its ballet master. Historic use of gender marking in job titles in ballet (and live theatre) is being supplanted by gender-neutral language job titles regardless of an employee's gender (e.g. ballet master in lieu of ballet mistress, wig master as an alternative to wig mistress).
Especially during the early centuries of ballet troupes and ballet companies from the 18th century until the early 20th century, the position of first ballet master, referred to traditionally as the premier maître de ballet en chef or more simply as the maître de ballet, was the undisputed head of the company who acted as chief choreographer and artistic director. His duties included creating ballets, dances in operas, commissioning music, and presiding over the teaching of the dancers and style desired. It was this head ballet master who had the responsibility of the artistic directorship of a particular group of dancers or of a theatre. Before the early 20th century, primarily after the disbandment of the original Ballets Russes, the title has been used more to describe the master teachers/assistant directors of a ballet company, (previously known as second ballet master), with the head of a company being referred to as the artistic director.