INTERNET PIROU­ETTE

Nige­rian boy re­ceives bal­let schol­ar­ship af­ter cap­ti­vat­ing world with rainy video on Twit­ter

Chicago Sun-Times - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - BY LEKAN OYEKANMI AND JONATHAN LANDRUM JR.

LA­GOS, Nige­ria — When An­thony Mme­soma Madu was videoed prac­tic­ing bal­let bare­foot in the driz­zling rain in Nige­ria ear­lier this year, the 11-year-old thought the footage would be used for a com­mon film study ses­sion.

In­stead, the cell­phone video of him 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.

Madu’s prac­tice dance ses­sion was so im­pres­sive that it earned him a bal­let schol­ar­ship with the Amer­i­can Bal­let Theater in the U.S. It also showed his com­mu­nity that any­thing is pos­si­ble.

“I feel very, very sur­prised, very, very happy,” Madu 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 Madu’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 Madu’s train­ing and helped bring the video to the at­ten­tion of the Amer­i­can Bal­let Theater, said Laura Miller, a spokes­woman for the dance com­pany.

“When I got that call that I won a schol­ar­ship to the U.S in the year 2021, I was very, very happy, I was like, ‘What? Is this what God can do?’ ” Madu re­called. Bal­let, he added, “is hard to learn but if you put your ef­fort, you can learn it.”

Madu 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’s been of­fered a sum­mer schol­ar­ship, with the pos­si­bil­ity of him con­tin­u­ing this fall un­der dis­cus­sion, Miller said.

Miller said the Amer­i­can Bal­let Theater is cur­rently work­ing on a sched­ule for Madu that works with the six-hour time dif­fer­ence. The com­pany is also talk­ing to him about tak­ing part in week­end pro­grams.

The video was the idea of Madu’s trainer, Daniel Ajala, a self­trained bal­let dancer. He’s also the founder of Leap of Dance Academy, which he started in 2017.

Ajala sug­gested the idea as a way for Madu to re­view his tech­nique. He’s 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 pro­gram free so that there would be no ex­cuse that any child could give that it was the rea­son they couldn’t pur­sue their love for dance,” he said.

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 to stay while they can’t go home.”

SUN­DAY ALAMBA/AP

Bal­let dancer An­thony Mme­soma Madu, the 11-year-old star of a vi­ral video, ap­pears in his dance stu­dio in La­gos, Nige­ria.

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