The 45-second recording of a kid dancing in the rain? There was something inspiring about it. But would anyone else be interested? Well, here we are, seven weeks after that post, and the video of this kid – his name is Anthony Madu, by the way – has been seen nearly 310,000 times on Instagram alone. And it’s been re-posted on every social media imaginable, where it has been seen by tens of thousands of other people.
The outpouring from viewers has been effusive. From all over the globe, they’ve cheered on the 11-year-old Nigerian boy. In Russian and Mandarin, in Portuguese and Tamil and English, they have praised his persistence and his passion. Some have even offered to send money or ballet supplies.
In a time where every hour seems to bring more unspeakable political and social crises, here was a kid whose love for dance couldn’t be deterred by the rain. Or by the concrete ground he was dancing on. Or the fact that he was barefoot.
11-Year-Old Ballet Dancer Gets Scholarship
“A friend who lives in the UK sent me the video,” says Cynthia Harvey. “Within a day, I was trying to find him.”
Harvey is a former principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. Today, she is the artistic director of the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Dance, one of America’s most distinguished ballet schools.
A group of students from Lagos, Nigeria’s Leap of Dance Academy gathers to take class on a concrete-covered space outside their teacher’s home, which doubles as the dance studio.
Ballet children dancers training
“Here, we’re complaining about not being able to open our buildings,” says Harvey. “But in that video, I saw a boy who was a perfect example of the tenacity someone can have when they have love and a dream. It was immediately obvious how much determination he had.”
Within two days, Harvey managed to contact the boy and his teacher. Soon after, she had arranged for full scholarships so Anthony could attend the ABT virtual Young Dancer Summer Workshop, a three-week intensive program. At the same time, ABT has included his teacher in its National Training Curriculum, a two-week course intended to help teachers polish their skills.
At the center of all of this is Anthony’s ballet teacher, a self-taught 29-year-old Nigerian man named Daniel Ajala. He studied business administration at Lagos State University and seemed destined for a career in finance until he saw “Save the Last Dance,” a modestly successful movie that featured equal doses of ballet and hip-hop with a smattering of jazz dance.
It was the ballet that caught Ajala’s eyes. So, with the help of YouTube and a trio of supportive ballet teachers stretching from New York to Michigan to California, Ajala learned the basics of ballet.
In late 2017, he opened the Leap of Dance Academy in his own tiny home. Every day, he pushes aside his furniture and turns the space into a dance studio. When he needs more space, he lays sheets of cardboard on a concrete pad outside. That’s where Anthony’s video was shot.
Trained in finance, 29-year-old Daniel Ajala was smitten by ballet after seeing a screening of “Save the Last Dance.” Today, he runs the Leap of Dance Academy in a poor neighborhood in Lagos, Nigeria. Recently, a video of one of his students dancing in the rain went viral on social media.
Classes are free at Leap of Dance. The only thing Ajala demands is that students work hard and be serious about their studies. Today, he has just 12 students.