11-Y.O. Nigerian Boy Gets Scholarship From New York Dance School After Inspiring Rain Ballet Performance Goes Viral

The 11-year-old Nigerian ballet dancer whose dance in the rain went viral and inspired millions earlier this summer has been granted a scholarship to the American Ballet Theater in New York City. 

In case you haven’t seen it, the video lauded by social media users and influential dance professionals— and Academy Award winner Viola Davis— shows Anthony Mmesoma Madu executing exuberant pirouettes and arabesques barefoot outside of his dance school in Lagos to the sound of falling rain. 

Cynthia Harvey, artistic director of the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Dance, also saw the video.

“A friend who lives in the UK sent me the video,” she told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Within a day, I was trying to find him.”

via Instagram/ @leapofdanceacademy

“Here, we’re complaining about not being able to open our buildings,” said 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.”

Moved by Anthony’s passion, Harvey arranged for the pre-teen to attend ABT’s three-week Young Dancer Summer Workshop on a full scholarship. She also helped Anthony’s family secure internet access so he could attend this year’s virtual intensive remotely.

Next year, Anthony will train in person on a scholarship from Ballet Beyond Borders.

“Ballet is my life. When I am dancing, I feel as if I am on top of the world,” Anthony told Reuters

Anthony’s parents planned for their son to become a priest, but they are pleased with his accomplishments as a dancer and support his dreams.

In conversation with the BBC, his mother Ifeoma Madu urged parents to be supportive of their talented children. Watching Anthony dance brings her “joy,” she said.

Since the video went viral, Anthony’s dance studio in Lagos, Leap of Dance Academy, has received support and donations from all around the world. 

Leap of Dance Academy was founded by 29-year-old Daniel Ajala Owoseni in 2017 where he teaches his 12 students free of charge and without proper resources.

via Instagram/ @leapofdanceacademy

Unable to afford class in his youth, Owoseni is a self-taught ballet dancer who started practicing alongside Youtube videos at 13. 

“I saw the need to bring a form of art that shows discipline, dedication, and commitment,” he told Reuters. “Students who are able to learn all of these can … transfer (them) into other spheres of their lives.”

Owoseni says he will use the donation money to further promote ballet in Nigeria where the art is not yet widely practiced. 

“People say that you can never do ballet the way it is done abroad because ballet is not an African dance, but for me it’s about making the art form our own,” he told Vogue.

Here’s how you can help:

Susan LaMarca

Written by Susan LaMarca