Nigeria’s viral ballet boy: From Lagos to elite dance school

Source: BBC

Anthony Madu, a 13-year-old from Lagos, Nigeria, experienced a life-changing journey from local ballet enthusiast to a student at one of the UK’s elite ballet schools, all thanks to a viral video. His dance teacher captured Anthony practicing ballet barefoot in the rain, leading to the clip being shared by actress Viola Davis and garnering 16 million views. This exposure earned Anthony a scholarship to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre and later, an opportunity to study at Elmhurst Ballet School in Birmingham.

Adjusting to life in the UK was challenging for Anthony, especially in terms of weather and missing home. However, he has settled into the rigorous dance regime, maintaining close contact with his family in Nigeria. His mother, Ifeoma Madu, originally skeptical of his passion for dance due to societal norms, now supports his dreams. Anthony’s journey highlights the challenges and opportunities for ballet dancers in Africa, where societal stigmas and limited access to formal training can impede talent.

Ballet teachers like Mike Wamaya in Nairobi and others across the continent are working to change the perception of ballet as an elite, gendered art form. South African dancer Siphesihle November’s success story, similar to Anthony’s, illustrates the potential of social media in promoting classical ballet in Africa.

Anthony’s story is set to reach a broader audience through a Disney documentary, “Madu,” in post-production. His journey is not only a personal achievement but also a beacon of inspiration for aspiring dancers in Africa, showcasing the importance of perseverance, resilience, and embracing one’s passion against all odds.

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