Alexei Ratmansky teaching class, New York City Ballet © Erin Baiano

“The Ballet Master”: out of fashion?

by Alastair Macaulay

What’s in a name? In recent years, most American companies changed the appellation of senior staff from “ballet masters” to “rehearsal directors” or “repertory directors”. Since the term “ballet master” had long stretched to include both women and people of colour, it was already comprehensive – but now it seems to be wrong for the present climate of ballet.

Is this just a passing fashion of mere nomenclature ? Or does the change of title indicate a modern distrust of mastery itself?

In Europe, the title “maître de ballet” (often the French name is used outside France) is still used, from Denmark to Italy. John Neumeier is the most prestigious example: in Hamburg, this choreographer founded a school attached to the ballet company he has directed since 1973.

George Balanchine teaching, as part of a Teachers’ Seminar at the School of American Ballet © Nancy Lassalle

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