Traditionalists would tell us that girls should take ballet while boys should play sports, but one youngster is turning those outdated gender norms on their head.
Gabriel Romero, an 11-year-old dancer, is the only boy in his ballet class at Thom McIntyre’s Philadelphia Dance Center, but he's totally cool with it.
“Of course, I would love for more boys to be encouraged to dance,” Romero added, “but most boys just think in one direction. ‘Dancing is for sissies, it’s girly,’ but it takes as much effort to be a football player as it is for a dancer.”
Although the pre-teen admits he gets "negative feedback" when he tells people he's a dancer, he can shrug it off because he knows it takes a lot of hard work to be in the ballet.
"It's not only a sport, it's an art," he said about ballet. "It's some way to put your emotions into movement. It takes a lot of brainpower and memory to remember all the routines and perfect them."
Male ballerinas are, of course, nothing new (who could forget Canadian ballet dancer Rex Harrington or, arguably, the most famous ballet dancer of all time, Rudolf Nureyev?), but it speaks volumes about our society when a young boy still has to defend his choice to be in the ballet.
But other boys like Gabriel aren't afraid to break from gender norms.
Take 12-year-old Alfie Shacklock, who made headlines in April after winning a scholarship at The Australian Ballet and placing first in the junior section at the prestigious Alana Haines Australasian Awards held in Wellington, New Zealand.
Then there's 10-year-old Andreas Cross, from Suffolk, U.K., who won a scholarship to a dance school after his mom put him in ballet classes to help calm his hyperactivity.
"It takes as much effort to be a football player as it is for a dancer."
According to Mavis Staines, the artistic director and chief executive officer at Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto, the way male ballet dancers have been perceived has changed a lot in recent years.
“I trained and danced in the era where there was the assumption that all female ballet dancers were neurotic and anorexic and all male ballet dancers were neurotic and homosexual,” Staines told the Globe and Mail in April. “There have been giant strides in terms of how not just dance is perceived but how ballet is perceived.”
Now, the male population of the school's professional ballet program stands at 41 per cent, and broke 40 per cent for the first time just three years ago, according to the Globe.
As for boys who want to sign up for dance class but are too scared, Gabriel has a message for them: "It doesn't matter what other people think; it matters what you want, what your inner passion is, and you should reach for that."
Watch the full video here.