A poor Nigerian boy whose unlikely journey to a British dance academy is being chronicled by Disney met royalty on Tuesday, as he trains to become a professional. Anthony Madu, 13, is studying at the Elmhurst Ballet School in Birmingham, central England, two years after moving from the sprawling megacity of Lagos. He was offered a scholarship after a 44-second video of him pirouetting in the rain went viral in 2020, racking up millions of views.
Newspapers dubbed him the “Nigerian Billy Elliot”, after the award-winning 2000 film about a coal miner’s son in northern England who wins a place at the Royal Ballet. Last September, Disney announced it was making a documentary on Madu’s remarkable journey from the Leap of Dance Academy in Lagos to Britain.
Queen Consort Camilla visited Elmhurst as part of the school’s centenary celebrations, wishing him “good luck” after asking about his interest in dance. She was accompanied by “ballet royalty” Carlos Acosta, the Cuban-British former dancer and director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, who is vice-president of the school. Afterwards, the teenager told reporters: “My dancing’s going well. It’s really, really great and I’m really enjoying it.”
He said he was adapting to life-and the weather-in the UK and hoped his story can spur on others around the world. “I just hope to inspire them to pursue their dreams and never give up,” he added. The Leap of Dance Academy, based in a run-down primary school in Ajangbadi, Lagos, is the brainchild of self-taught ballet fan Daniel Ajala. It opened its doors in late 2017, with Ajala-who studied dance moves online and in books-funding young pupils out of his own pocket. Madu’s mother Ifoma told AFP in July 2020 as she watched her son perform a grand jete with his classmates: “When I see him dancing it gives me joy.” – AFP