Gracefully spinning among a group of ballerinas dressed in pink, young Anthony Mmesoma Madu stands out in black leggings, a white turtleneck, and poise beyond his years. His parents wanted him to become a priest. Instead, he has captivated millions with his ballet.
“Ballet is my life and I practice everywhere, and when I am dancing I feel as if I am on top of the world, and anytime my mom sends me on an errand, I dance ballet before I go to that place and it makes me feel very very happy, I so much love ballet,” he told Reuters.
A video of him dancing barefoot in the rain on the concrete outside the Leap of Dance Academy, the studio where he trains, went viral in the month of July.
More than 15 million people have watched his joyful leaps and pirouettes, undeterred by the rain or modest surroundings.
“I practice everywhere because they said practice makes perfect and I always practice, I cannot wait for me to go to a big stage and start making mistakes,” he said.
The video also sparked a flood of donations to the dance academy, which teaches its students for free.
Founder Daniel Ajala Owoseni said he would use the money, and fame, to spread ballet in Nigeria, a country where it is not yet widely accepted.
The video caught the eye of the elite American Ballet Theatre, which gave Anthony a scholarship and arranged internet access for virtual training this summer.
Next year, Anthony will train in the United States on a scholarship from Ballet Beyond Borders.
“When my friends see me dancing, they feel like, what is this boy doing, is he doing a foreign dance?” he said. “Now I have won a grand prize to go to the U.S. … I will be in the plane and this is what I am waiting for, and ballet has done it for me.”
The Leap of Dance Academy was founded in September 2017 to help kids who could not afford the luxury of ballet classes. The founder is a graduate of Business Administration; he has no professional training in ballet but learned from YouTube and Google.
“I saw the need to bring a form of art that shows discipline, dedication, and commitment,” Owoseni said.
Owoseni added that students who are able to learn these values can “transfer all of the discipline and dedication they have learned through ballet into other spheres of their lives.”
By Seun Sanni. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.