Cynthia Harvey woke up one morning to find on her social media feed a 45-second video sent to her by a friend who knew that she would find it intriguing. Cynthia is the artistic director of one of America’s most distinguished ballet schools, ABT (American Ballet Theatre) Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Dance located on Broadway in NYC.
She was also a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre for many years.
It was of eleven-year-old Anthony Mmesoma Madu of Lagos, Nigeria.
And 45 seconds was all that was needed.
Said Cynthia, “A friend who lives in the UK sent me the video.
Within a day, I was trying to find him.”
And find him she did, through his teacher, and after a short conversation she offered Anthony a scholarship for the summer of 2021 at the American Ballet Theatre… air, lodging, food, everything.
And in the meantime, Anthony will take online classes with top instructors.
“When my friends see me dancing, they feel like, what is this boy doing, is he doing a foreign dance? 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.”
And it couldn’t have happened if not for his teacher, 29-year-old Daniel Ajala Owoseni, who founded the Leap of Dance Academy in Badagry, on the Nigerian coast, in 2017.
Daniel, formally untrained and self-taught from YouTube videos, had his hopes to further his career dashed on many occasions by discrimination….. racial, gender, and class… and he started the school to show the youth that they can achieve anything, even with few outer resources.
It’s the inner resources that count.
And to change gender and classist stereotypes.
nd because he so loves ballet.
He has twelve students, Anthony being the only boy.
And he funds everything himself… it’s free to all.
How can those that come from families with meager financial means afford it?
But here, that is of no consequence.
When his students arrive at his home six days a week, he pushes his furniture to one side and viola, a studio.
“Our children sometimes train on the bare floor which is not suitable for dancers. But we just keep moving so that we don’t keep crying about the things we don’t have.
I saw the need to bring a form of art that shows discipline, dedication, and commitment. Students who are able to learn all of these can … transfer them into other spheres of their lives.”
Cynthia was so moved by his dedication to the children and his dedication to the art form she so loves, she offered Daniel a scholarship as well, the ABT National Training Curriculum for teachers.
Teacher and student will travel, and learn, and grow….. together.
Anthony knew he wanted to be a dancer when he saw the animated movie, Barbie and the 12 Dancing Princesses.
“When I was watching the cartoon, I told my mum that I want to do ballet.”
His parents wanted him to become a priest, when Daniel recognized what a talent he was and asked them if he could become a student.
His mother, Ifeoma Madu, agreed, which showed empathy and bravery, as males in the ballet is not widely accepted in areas of Nigeria.
Watching her son brings her “joy”.
Indeed….she’s not alone.
The video was seen by 25 million people as yet.
“We should always inspire and motivate people to go up rather than pulling down. We should learn from one another as everyone is gifted with different talent”