Getting into a good school can be hard to do so a bit of creativity, perseverance, and ingenuity can go a long way. That’s exactly the case with 11-year-old Anthony Mmesoma Madu from Lagos, Nigeria.
Madu is one of 12 students of the Leap of Dance Academy in Lagos – a dance school founded by Daniel Ajala Owoseni in 2017. It’s in the Leap of Dance Academy that Madu both fell in love with ballet and discovered that he has a knack for it. But what truly set Anthony apart from his peers was an inspiring video of him, dancing barefoot in the rain and on the uneven concrete of a random Lagos street.
Owoseni uploaded the video on the Leap of Dance Academy’s Instagram page and it went viral almost immediately. Soon after that, scholarship offers started raining from all around the world.
One such offer came from Cynthia Harvey, the artistic director of the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Dance in New York.
“A friend who lives in the UK sent me the video,” said Harvey. “Within a day, I was trying to find him.”
Harvey found Madu through the Leap of Dance Academy and Owoseni and offered the boy a full scholarship so that he could attend the ABT virtual Young Dancer Summer Workshop – a three-week intensive program. Owoseni was also included in ABT’s two-week-long National Training Curriculum course for ballet instructors.
What made Madu’s video so inspiring was a combination of different factors. On one hand, was the boy’s obvious natural talent and dedication. On the other, undeniably, were the harsh conditions he was forced to train in. Owoseni himself pointed that out in the description of the video as he posted it on Instagram:
“Behind those fanciful in class beauty and costumes are lots and lots of backstage hard work. With very little or no resources our kids are training to be the best they can. This is not to bring down anyone but to show their high level of dedication and committments to our program. Who wouldn’t be proud of them? What teacher wouldn’t pray for students who shows/comes to class with so much desire to learn? Kids who are ready to dance with or without conditions. Imagine what more we could achieve if we have more?”
And the offers for that “more” followed soon after.
All that shouldn’t distract from Madu’s talents, however. Owoseni spared no praise when he talked about Madu on the multiple interviews he made after the story went viral:
“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.” Owoseni also added that “Male ballet dancing is here to stay and it is not only supposed to be for females.”
The dedicated instructor’s contribution to the boy’s future success cannot be overstated. It also turned out that Owoseni was training his 12 pupils in the Leap of Dance Academy for free.
When Madu was asked how he felt when his video went viral he said he was “very, very happy”. He also added that he hopes his story and his dancing will help challenge the stigma that ballet is “just for girls” and that male ballet dancers still struggle with.
“When people see ballet they think it is only for girls,” Madu said. “How I want them to see me is when I am dancing, they know that there is a male ballet dancer. The feeling that comes over me is as if I am dreaming.”
Madu hasn’t accepted any scholarship offers yet, as there are quite a few for him to choose from. He was donated a laptop from his supporters and ABT is working on getting him internet access so that he can better research his possibilities and make the best possible decision for his future.
“A child who shows this much dedication, you just have to help,” Harvey said. “If there is anything the world has taught us, it’s that we have to inspire all sorts of people and that we all have a lot to learn from one another. Providing opportunities for Daniel and Anthony is the right thing to do.”
The viral video was also caught up by many celebrities who also helped popularize Madu and his talents. Actress Viola Davis was one of many who shared Madu’s video on Twitter.
“Reminds me of the beauty of my people,” the actress wrote. “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!!!”
Madu’s story is inspiring in lots of different ways and that’s precisely what makes it important. For one, it’s the classic story of someone overcoming seemingly unsurmountable obstacles through sheer effort. But it’s also a story about all the good that could be done thanks to how connected and small our world has become through the internet. And, last but not least, it’s a story of how vital a good, dedicated, and selfless teacher can be for the development of his or her pupils.
Hopefully, Madu’s and Owoseni’s stories will continue to be as positive and inspiring as they are right now.