11-year-old Nigerian’s rainy ballet performance scores him prestigious scholarship

Anthony Mmesoma Madu is one of twelve students at Lagos’ Leap of Dance Academy. The make-shift school has no official dance space and was founded under the effort of Daniel Ajala Owoseni. The instructor created the program in 2017 to teach children ballet for free, which means he didn’t have many resources — but he does have Instagram.

When Leap of Dance posted a clip of 11-year-old Anthony practicing ballet, it may have changed the pre-teen’s life. The short video shows him dancing in the rain. He’s barefoot, standing on the muddy ground, but moves with grace and stunning form. 

It caught the attention of people all over the world. That includes Cynthia Harvey, artistic director of New York’s American Ballet Theatre (ABT) Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Dance.

“A friend who lives in the U.K. sent me the video. Within a day, I was trying to find him,” Harvey told the Cincinnati Enquirer

Harvey tracked down Anthony and gave him a full scholarship to ABT’s virtual Young Dancer Summer Workshop. It’s a three-week intensive program. The school also has plans to work with Owoseni, who will take part in a two-week course called the National Training Curriculum, which aims to enrich dance instructors. 

Owoseni and Anthony hope that his success subverts stereotypes about ballet and boys. 

“When people see ballet they think it is only for girls. How I want them to see me is when I am dancing, they know that there is a male ballet dancer,” Anthony said, according to People. “The feeling that comes over me is as if I am dreaming.”

If you enjoyed this story, you might also like reading about this 87-year-old dancer that empowers Black ballerinas in Philadelphia.

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