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Home / Art and Culture / 11-year-old Nigerian boy, Anthony Mmesoma Madu, captivates the world with his ballet

11-year-old Nigerian boy, Anthony Mmesoma Madu, captivates the world with his ballet

Gracefully spinning among a group of dancers clad in pink, 11-year-old Anthony Mmesoma Madu stands out in black leggings, a white turtleneck and poise beyond his years.

art-and-culture Updated: Aug 13, 2020 19:48 IST
Reuters | Edited by: Alfea Jamal
Reuters | Edited by: Alfea Jamal
Lagos
Anthony Mmesoma Madu, an 11-year-old ballet dancer, poses during a rehearsal with other students at the Leap of Dance Academy in Lagos, Nigeria July 27, 2020. Picture taken July 27, 2020.
Anthony Mmesoma Madu, an 11-year-old ballet dancer, poses during a rehearsal with other students at the Leap of Dance Academy in Lagos, Nigeria July 27, 2020. Picture taken July 27, 2020. (REUTERS)

Gracefully spinning among a group of dancers clad in pink, 11-year-old Anthony Mmesoma Madu stands out in black leggings, a white turtleneck and poise beyond his years.

A video of him dancing barefoot in the rain on concrete outside the studio where he trains, the Leap of Dance Academy, went viral last month.

More than 15 million people have watched his joyful leaps and pirouettes, undeterred by the rain and coarse surface. Academy Award winner and How to Get Away With Murder actor Viola Davis had also shared the video of Anthony dancing in the rain with the caption, “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!!!”

Leap of Dance Academy reshared the video last week with the caption, “Changing stereotypes. As a dance school in Africa, and Nigeria to be precise our academy stands to educate our audience that ballet is here to stay; “It’s for both boys and girls’’ said Anthony Mmmesoma Madu. (When ballet was created 400 years ago, it was created for men. Men were the first dancers. Special shoutout to all parents who have allowed their boys to dance. Speaking from the Nigerian perspective most children are enrolled in school to have a white collar job but never to become a dancer. We hope supportive and inspirational mom like Anthony’s mom has given us a reason for early child talent discovery.”

 

The video caught the eye of Cynthia Harvey, the artistic director at the elite American Ballet Theatre of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Dance in New York, which gave him a scholarship and arranged internet access for virtual training this summer. Next year, he will train in the United States on a scholarship from Ballet Beyond Borders.

In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Harvey said, “A friend who lives in the UK sent me the video, within a day, I was trying to find him.”

His parents in Lagos, Nigeria’s teeming lagoon city, wanted him to become a priest. Instead, he has captivated millions with his ballet.

“When I am dancing, I feel as if I am on top of the world,” he told Reuters.

Anthony Mmesoma Madu, an 11-year-old ballet dancer, poses during a rehearsal with other students at the Leap of Dance Academy in Lagos, Nigeria July 27, 2020. Picture taken July 27, 2020.
Anthony Mmesoma Madu, an 11-year-old ballet dancer, poses during a rehearsal with other students at the Leap of Dance Academy in Lagos, Nigeria July 27, 2020. Picture taken July 27, 2020. ( REUTERS )

“When my friends see me dancing, they feel like, what is this boy doing, is he doing a foreign dance?” he said. “Now I have won a grand prize to go to the U.S. ... I will be in the plane and this is what I am waiting for, and ballet has done it for me.”

The video also sparked a flood of donations to the academy, which teaches its students for free. Founder Daniel Ajala Owoseni said he will use the money, and fame, to promote ballet in Nigeria, a country where it is not yet widely practised.

“I saw the need to bring a form of art that shows discipline, dedication and commitment,” he said. “Students who are able to learn all of these can ... transfer (them) into other spheres of their lives.” Owoseni will also be given a two-week advance training course to help him teach others better.

Talking about Anthony to NPR, Owoseni said, “Anthony has been a very dedicated student. From the day when he started, he’s someone who if he doesn’t get the combination correctly, he start crying in class.”

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