LAGOS, Nigeria – When Anthony Mmesoma Madu was filmed practicing ballet Barefoot in the pouring rain in Nigeria earlier this year, the 11-year-old thought the footage would be used for a joint film study session.
Instead, the mobile phone video of him performing the pirouette without shoes on the unevenly wet concrete was seen by a much wider audience. The video has garnered more than 20 million views on social media, including from Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis and Grammy and Tony award-winning Cynthia Erivo.
Davis shared Madu’s video with her 5.9 million followers on instagram. She captioned, “Reminds me of the beauty of my people. We create, soar, can imagine, unleashed passion and love…despite the brutal obstacles that have been put before us! Our people can fly! !!”
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Madu’s dance workout was so impressive that it won her a ballet scholarship from the American Ballet Theater in the United States. It also showed his community that anything is possible.
“I feel very, very surprised, very, very happy,” Madu said after his fellow Leap of Dance Academy mates staged a performance on a dirt street in Lagos, Nigeria, while throwing dust in the air to celebrate.
“I thank God for making the video go viral,” he said.
Erivo decided to sponsor Madu’s training and helped bring the video to the attention of American Ballet Theatre, said Laura Miller, a spokesperson for the dance company.
“When I got this call telling me that I had won a scholarship to the United States in 2021, I was very, very happy, I was like, ‘What? Can God do? Madu recalled. Ballet, he added, “is hard to learn, but if you put in the effort, you can learn it.”
Madu is too young to physically travel and study in New York. The minimum age to be a student in the city and live in a dorm is 15, but he was offered a summer scholarship, with the possibility of continuing this fall under discussion, Miller said.
Miller said the American Ballet Theater is currently working on a schedule for Madu that works with the six-hour jet lag. The company also talks to him about participating in weekend programs.
The video was the brainchild of Madu’s coach, Daniel Ajala, a self-taught ballet dancer. He is also the founder of Leap of Dance Academy, which he launched in 2017.
Ajala suggested the idea as a way for Madu to revise her technique. He has been a strong advocate for supporting his students to achieve their dreams, despite their circumstances.
“I wanted to be able to give every child an opportunity by making my program free so there was no excuse any child could give that was the reason they couldn’t pursue their love for dance” , did he declare.
Ajala said her dance school has received donations, which will be used to establish a standard dance academy with accommodation.
“Some of our students have to walk for around an hour to get to the academy, so we wanted to have a comfortable space for them to stay in while they can’t get home.”