Nigerian boy, 11, dazzles social media with his ballet dancing

A 11-year-old boy practising ballet barefoot in the drizzling rain in Nigeria has seen his performance unexpectedly go around the world.

Anthony Mmesoma Madu thought the footage would be used for a common film study session.

Instead, the mobile phone video of Anthony Mmesoma Madu performing the pirouette without shoes on the unevenly wet concrete was seen by a much bigger audience.

The video has garnered more than 20 million views on social media including by Oscar-winning actor Viola Davis and Cynthia Erivo, who has won Grammy and Tony awards.

Anthony’s practice dance session was so impressive that it earned him a ballet scholarship with the American Ballet Theatre in the US.

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Ballet student Anthony Mmesoma Madu stands in position (Sunday Alamba/AP)
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Ballet student Anthony Mmesoma Madu stands in position (Sunday Alamba/AP)

It also showed his community that anything is possible.

“I feel very, very surprised, very, very happy,” Anthony said after his fellow students at Leap Of Dance Academy staged a performance on a dirt street in Lagos, Nigeria, while tossing dust into the air in celebration.

“I thank God that he made the video to go viral,” he said.

Davis shared Anthony’s video with her 1.4 million followers on Twitter.

She wrote in the caption “Reminds me of the beauty of my people.

“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!!!”

Erivo decided to sponsor Anthony’s training and helped bring the video to the attention of the American Ballet Theatre, said Laura Miller, a spokeswoman for the dance company.

“When I got that call that I won a scholarship to the US in the year 2021, I was very, very happy, I was like, ‘What? Is this what God can do?’” Anthony recalled.

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Anthony rehearses at the barre (Sunday Alamba/AP)
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Anthony rehearses at the barre (Sunday Alamba/AP)

Ballet, he added, “is hard to learn but if you put your effort, you can learn it”.

Anthony is too young to physically travel and study in New York.

The minimum age to be a student in the city and live in a dorm is 15, but he has been offered a summer scholarship, with the possibility of him continuing this autumn under discussion, Ms Miller said.

Ms Miller said the American Ballet Theatre is currently working on a schedule for Anthony that works with the six-hour time difference.

The company is also talking to him about taking part in weekend programmes.

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Anthony’s performance got 20 million views (Sunday Alamba/AP)
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Anthony’s performance got 20 million views (Sunday Alamba/AP)

The video was the idea of Anthony’s trainer, Daniel Ajala, a self-trained ballet dancer.

He is also the founder of Leap Of Dance Academy, which he started in 2017.

Mr Ajala suggested the idea as a way for Anthony to review his technique.

He has been a strong advocate in supporting his students to follow their dreams, despite their circumstances.

“I wanted to be able to give an opportunity to every child by making my programme free so that they would be no excuse that any child could give that it was the reason they couldn’t pursue their love for dance,” he said.

Mr Ajala said his dance school has received donations, which will be used to create a standard dance academy with housing.

“Some of our students have to walk one hour or there about to the academy so we wanted to have like a comfortable space for them to be able stay while they can’t go home.”

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