In this year’s Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) Grade 12 class, there are 16 boys and 11 girls, marking the first time in the institution’s illustrious 60-year history that female ballet dancers are outnumbered.
The ratio surprises even [Benjamin] Alexander, who said he used to feel like he was keeping a secret as a dancer growing up in Chatham-Kent, Ont.
“At school, everyone was going to hockey practice and baseball practice, and I was there with my dance shoes and dance bag going off to dance class. It was hard,” he told CBC Toronto. “Definitely, there was a feeling of solitude.” – CBC News
His older sister who had done tap dancing first inspired Alexander to consider dance. He says while there are still some stigmas that linger for male ballet dancers in 2019, he’s seen some changes in his time at NBS. Alexander states:
People don’t generally understand how much passion, perseverance and determination it takes to become a male ballet dancer. I think that’s shifted now. I think people realize we work extremely hard to become the top of our field.
Andrew Larose, another student graduating soon mentions he was inspired by Michael Jackson and Russian ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov. When starting out in his home town, he was the only male in his dance class, but coming to NBS, he entered a whole new world. Others sing the praises of being able to learn dance at NBS.
The increase in the amount of boys learning ballet at Canada’s National Ballet School is two-fold. Not only did more boys need to try out for admittance, just like the girls, but the boys also needed to be accepted by and given the space to learn dance/ballet at the institution.
“The ratio of men to women and making sure that there are as many male dancers as female dancers who have a chance to pursue their dream has been a passion of mine and my colleagues for a long time,” says Mavis Staines, the artistic director and CEO of Canada’s National Ballet School for the last three decades.
While she says she believes that their community programs did help even out the numbers, Staines believes there’s also been an authentic shift in people’s perceptions about ballet through shows and social media.
Staines credits the gained acceptance of boys performing ballet because of shows, social media, and even the popularity of the musical/movie/play Billy Elliot.
We applaud all the boys that are breaking through those barriers. We also applaud Canada’s NBS for giving these boys an equal chance. At one point the institution’s leadership was thinking about making it more enticing for boys to try out and come to NBS by offering free classes, but then they realized, even though this may assist them with the goal of having a higher male enrollment, it would not be fair to the females that try out just the same and would have to pay.