11year old Nigerian gets American scholarship to study ballet after his dance video goes viral

Anthony Mmesoma Madu
 

An 11 year old Nigerian, Anthony Mmesoma Madu, has been awarded a scholarship by the American Ballet Theatre Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in New York, USA. The institution also arranged for Internet access for his virtual training this summer

Anthony caught the eye of Cynthia Harvey, the artistic director of the institution when 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.

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His video was shared by millions including the Oscar award-winning actress Viola Davis and English-Nigerian actress Cynthia Erivo.
For Erivo, she says she felt a special, personal connection when she saw Anthony danced.

"They're in Nigeria. I happen to be Nigerian as well. And I was like, this felt like a kismet moment," the actress told NBC News. She was so moved by the young dancer's performance, she connected him with the theater company. "I think it's extremely important because I think boys are not encouraged to do this incredibly hard craft that actually encourages strength and stamina and beauty," Erivo said.

According to Cynthia Harvey in an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, "A friend who lives in the UK sent me the video. Within a day, I was trying to find him."

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
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

Harvey eventually managed to track down Madu and his dance school teacher, Daniel Ajala Owoseni, and helped extend an offer for a full scholarship so that Madu could attend the ABT virtual Young Dancer Summer Workshop, a three-week intensive program.

Next year, he will train in the United States on a scholarship from Ballet Beyond Borders.

“When my friends see me dancing, they feel like, ‘what is this boy doing, is he doing a foreign dance?’ ” Anthony said.

“Now I have won a grand prize to go to the US... 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 at no charge. 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 practiced.

Arrangements were also reportedly made for Owoseni to be included in the school's National Training Curriculum, a two-week course that helps instructors brush up on their skills.

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