Audiences couldn’t help but be amazed when 11-year-old Nigerian dancer Anthony Mmesoma Madu performed.
That’s because, despite his youth, the boy already has the makings of a pro. As he leaps and pirouettes to his heart’s content, he moves gracefully and almost ethereally.
Madu’s dance teacher and the founder of the Leap of Dance Academy, Daniel Owoseni Ajala, couldn’t agree more. He filmed Madu barefoot in June 2020, spinning and leaping fluidly in the air and landing his moves perfectly on hard, rain-soaked concrete.
Despite the less-than-ideal setting and the lack of music, the boy displayed emotion and grace far beyond his years.
Ajala decided to share the video on the Instagram page of the Leap of Dance Academy. Little did he know that it would make Anthony a viral internet star as thousands of people across the world shared it, including Hollywood actors Cynthia Erivo and Viola Davis.
«Despite the brutal obstacles that have been placed in front of us, we create, soar, can imagine, and have unleashed passion and love!» «Our people are capable of flying!!!» Davis captioned her Twitter post, which included a video of Madu dancing.
Another important person was drawn to the video: Cynthia Harvey, artistic director of the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Dance in New York.
She was so taken with Madu’s dancing that she sought him out and offered him a scholarship to the prestigious American Ballet Theatre!
“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,” Madu said.
Madu’s interest in ballet started after watching “Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses,” a 2006 cartoon about 12 princesses with a shared passion for dancing. As he watched the show, Madu told his mom, Ifeoma Madu, that he wanted to do ballet.
When Madu’s family relocated to Ojo in Lagos, he met Alaja. The self-taught instructor established his dance academy in 2017 and has been teaching ballet to children who cannot afford a dance education for free.
When he found out about Madu’s dream, he convinced his mother to enroll him at the Leap of Dance Academy. He recorded Madu’s viral video during one of their classes. Alaja stated that the video was only intended to show movement corrections; he had no idea it would turn out the way it did.
Madu works on his craft for about five hours per day.
«When I first started, I thought ballet was easy to learn; I had no idea it was so difficult.» But I kept working hard… «Whenever he (Ajala) teaches us something, I go home to practice and then come back to show him,» he explained.
Madu traveled to the United States with his mother in May of this year at the invitation of the American Dance School in Wantage, UK. Madu impressed teachers with his ballet skills and passion during a two-day event on the school’s grounds.
“He can 100% go professional – you can tell if a dancer will go professional not by how good they are, but by how passionate,” said Jillian Clipsham, director at the school. “You can train someone and it does not matter how good they are, but if they are hungry for it, then they will learn.”
Madu already had one class with the dance school over Zoom, but Clipsham invited him to Wantage for in-person sessions.
Madu danced from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. He and his mom stayed at Clipsham’s house while they were in the UK.
With his undeniable talent and passion, Madu will surely go places! See this young dancer in his element in the video below.