Precise plies, pirouettes and jetes, but it’s not all pointe shoes and tutus in ballet.

For the first time at National Ballet School of Canada, first-year boy students outnumber the girls.

Teachers and practitioners have long tried to encourage boys to dance in what is often stereotyped as a girl's activity.

“I think all of us that have been here a long time have tried to encourage young boys to see ballet as an artistic option for them," said teacher Laurel Toto. 

This year it seems some of that encouragement has worked to break down some of those preconceived notions about the very tough physical art form.

More boys in class also means more balanced training for the girls. 

“When I started there were four boys, so it was a little disappointing, but I think its great, I think ballet is getting cooler,” said ballerina Olivia McAlpine.

Dancers from around the world

The popular stage show and movie Billy Elliot — about a boy ballet dancer — may have helped. 

Some boys say it’s still hard to tell other boys their age about their chosen art. 

But this school’s stature also helps. NSB has students from around the world. 

“Being surrounded by people who love to do what I do, it’s easier to talk and make friends and feel more comfortable dancing every day really helps,” said young dancer Leo Hepler.

Charles Berry graduated from the school in 2001 and went on to become a professional dancer. But he remembers how it could be hard in the younger years, dancing as a boy.

“Before I joined the National Ballet School, you got the usual ribbing as a kid, being a guy doing ballet,” Berry said.

An injury sidelined Berry, who is now an accountant, but he maintains that the power of ballet helps in any path.

“The key thing about ballet is that it teaches you a lot of discipline and that’s an attitude that’s important in any profession, whatever you’re doing.”

From a report by Nil Koksal