When 11-year-old Nigerian dancer Anthony Mmesoma Madu dances, audiences couldn’t help but watch in amazement
That’s because the boy, as young as he is, already has the makings of a pro. He moves gracefully and almost looks ethereal as he leaps and pirouettes to his heart’s content.
Daniel Owoseni Ajala, Madu’s dance teacher and founder of the Leap of Dance Academy, couldn’t agree more. In June 2020, he filmed Madu barefoot, spinning and leaping fluidly in the air and landing his moves perfectly in hard and rain-soaked concrete.
Despite the less-than-ideal setting and the absence of music, the boy was able to perform with such emotion and grace beyond his years.
Ajala decided to post the video on the Leap of Dance Academy’s Instagram page. 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.
“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!!!” Davis captioned her Twitter post sharing Madu’s dance video.
The clip also caught the attention of one more important person—Cynthia Harvey, artistic director of the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Dance in New York.
She was so impressed by Madu’s dancing that she tracked him down and offered him a scholarship with 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.
Madu met Alaja when his family relocated to Ojo in Lagos. The self-taught instructor founded his dance academy in 2017 and has been teaching ballet for free to kids who can’t afford a dance education.
When he learned of Madu’s dream, he encouraged his mother to enroll him at the Leap of Dance Academy. It was during one of their classes that he recorded Madu’s viral video. Alaja said the video was only supposed to show corrections of movements; he never imagined it would come out the way it did.
Madu practices around five hours daily to improve his craft.
“When I first started I thought ballet was easy to dance, I didn’t know it was hard. But I kept on working hard… anytime he (Ajala) teaches us anything, I go home to practice and come back to show him,” he said.
In May this year, Madu flew to the US with his mom at the invitation of the American Dance School in Wantage, UK. During a two-day event on the school’s premises, Madu impressed teachers with his skill and passion for ballet.
“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 a Saturday and Sunday. 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.