- The video of an 11-year-old Nigerian boy ballet dancing has gone viral.
- He gracefully danced barefooted on concrete floor while it was raining.
- The boy, Anthony Mmesoma Madu, learned ballet at the Leap of Dance Academy in Lagos.
- He landed a scholarship at the American Ballet Theatre in New York when celebrities noticed his talent.
A video of an 11-year-old boy from Ojo, suburb of Lagos has gone viral that even celebrities like Viola Davis took notice. Eventually artistic director of the American Ballet Theatre Cynthia Harvey decided to track him down.
Anthony Mmesoma Madu showed his graceful moves, barefooted on concrete floor while it was raining. Despite this, he pirouetted, leapt, and landed his moves perfectly.
Madu’s interest in ballet sparked after watching ‘Barbie in the 12 dancing Princesses’
“When I was watching the cartoon, I told my mum that I want to do ballet,” Madu said.
He met Daniel Ajala Owoseni, founder of the Leap of Dance Academy, when he and his mother relocated in Ojo, a suburb in Lagos.
Owoseni encouraged Madu’s mother, Ifeoma Madu, to enroll the boy when he learned that he is passionate about dancing.
He studies ballet at Owoseni’s Leap of Dance Academy along with 11 other students.
According to Madu, many people still think he should not be dancing.
“Where I live there are no male ballet dancers like me. When people see ballet they think it is only for girls, they don’t know that it is not only for girls, ” Madu told BBC.
“When I am dancing… the feeling that comes over me is as if I am dreaming.”
“Anthony is a very committed student. Right from day one, he has always been very time conscious. We are trying to change stereotypes around ballet dance. Boys can actually do ballet,” his instructor told People.
He trains six days a week for at least five hours every day.
“When I first started I thought ballet was easy to dance, I didn’t know it was hard. But I kept on working hard… anytime he (Ajala) teaches us anything, I go home to practice and come back to show him,” he told CNN.
Owoseni, his self-taught dance instructor, watched Save the Last Dance when he was a teenager and became interested in dancing. After watching YouTube tutorials, getting Google pdf files, and practicing the techniques, he soon fell in love with ballet.
However, he was scrutinized for teaching the dance form because people thought it was only meant for girls.
“There is a perception that it is not an African dance. Being a male dancer is worse, people think ballet is not meant for boys,” he said.
Despite this, he continued to teach his students for free in his apartment.
Without a proper dance studio, he would only move his furniture aside and spread sheets on the floor.
“Our children sometimes train on the bare floor which is not suitable for dancers. But we just keep moving so that we don’t keep crying about the things we don’t have,” Owoseni said.
He filmed Madu during one of their sessions, and the video went viral.
“It (the video) wasn’t something we envisaged to come out the way it did. It was just something that was supposed to show corrections of movements… It was bigger than I imagined, and I started getting calls. Celebrities were posting us,” he said.
Academy and Emmy Award-winning actress Viola Davis took notice of Madu’s talent. In a Twitter post, she wrote:
“Reminds me of the beauty of my people. We create, soar, can imagine, have unleashed passion, and love… despite the brutal obstacles that have been put in front of us! Our people can fly!!!”
Cynthia Harvey, artistic director of the American Ballet Theatre Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Dance in New York, was also fascinated by Madu’s ballet skills.
A friend from UK sent her the video, and she immediately tried to find him. When she finally tracked him down, she offered him a full scholarship with ABT.
Madu is set to attend the ABT virtual Young Dancer Summer Workshop in 2021, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
“Here, we’re complaining about not being able to open our buildings,” Harvey told the media outlet.
“But in that video, I saw a boy who was a perfect example of the tenacity someone can have when they have love and a dream. It was immediately obvious how much determination he had, ” she said.
Moreover, ABT included Owoseni in their National Training Curriculum, a two-week course for teachers to help them polish their skills, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
Nigerian producer and former ballerina Fade Ogunro likewise shared his video on Twitter.
Madu was happy when the video went viral. He said, “I was surprised because I didn’t have it in mind that the video would go viral. The best part of being recognized is when I got a grand prize to go to the US because so many people don’t have that opportunity but I thank God that I do.”
In a virtual dance contest held last July, Madu won the South African International Ballet Competition grand prize.
According to CNN, the prize includes a scholarship to attend dance classes in America, accompanied by his dance teacher.
“I’m hoping to be a professional ballet dancer and I want people to know that ballet can blow here in Nigeria,” he said.
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