A Black Boy Who Danced Barefoot In The Rain? The Fairy Tale Is Very Beautiful, The Reality Is Very Cruel

Anthony Mmesoma Madu is an ordinary 11-year-old Nigerian boy. His parents had hoped that he would become a priest. Out of love for dancing, he joined a local free ballet school called The Leap Dance Academy, whose teacher, Ajara, posted his video on the Internet.

Despite its name, the school has only 12 students and its only teacher, Ajara, is self-taught. The shabby teaching space was Ajara’s own apartment. After school, the children would come to his house, push the furniture against the wall, spread a cloth on the concrete, and make a simple ballet room. His apartment is electrified only once every two days, and his children attend classes only when it is still dark. Many children have to walk a long way to get here because of the traffic inconvenience.


It’s almost impossible for a child like Anthony to achieve his ballet dream. Many families here can’t afford shoes and clothes. In Nigeria, on the other hand, ballet’s popularity is low, and its children — especially boys — have long been criticized.

To build a small ballet academy on the land, Ajara had to contact non-profit organizations and ask them to donate secondhand costumes to the school. He connected with several American ballerinas online, and as remote tutors, they could teach the children online from their own private studios. He also insisted on sharing photos and videos of his children practicing ballet on social media.

A video of Anthony dancing has gone viral on the Internet and many have been moved by an interview he gave in which he said: “Ballet is my life and when I dance I feel like I’m dreaming and on top of the world.” Many celebrities have retweeted his videos, including Oscar winner Viola Davis and Grammy award winner Cynthia Alford. Sharing the video, Davis, who also has dark skin, said: ‘Despite the brutal obstacles, we create, we fly, we imagine, we have unfettered passion and love. Our people can fly!”

After the video went viral, the children of the tiny dance academy staged a celebratory performance on a dusty street, throwing dust into the air to show their joy. “It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” Anthony told reporters after receiving ABT’s call. Ballet helped me do it!”

Behind Anthony’s unexpected rise to fame lies his unseen efforts and perseverance day in and day out. His story has inspired many, with some describing him as a “barefoot prince”, others as a “true artist” and others commenting that “if you are persistent enough, your talent and hard work will do it someday”.

Happily, the viral popularity of this short video has helped more than one child. In addition to providing Anthony with learning opportunities, ABT gave Agara a two-week training course to further improve his teaching skills. In addition, people from all walks of life around the world have donated a large amount of money to “Leap Dance Academy”. Ajara will use the money to build a standard dance academy and provide accommodation for the children, igniting the dream for more children who like ballet.

It all looked beautiful, with netizens lamenting the “fairytale ending” to the story. Anthony’s future, however, is not indomitable.


In fact, becoming a professional ballet dancer and gaining a foothold on the international stage is not so simple. In the ballet world, there is still a prejudice that black men are muscle-bound and physically unfit for classical ballet. Juno Sousa, one of only two black dancers at the British National Ballet, once said: “It’s disappointing that most of the ballet dancers are white, and I’m especially upset that. Usually if I was sitting there watching, there wouldn’t be a single black person left on the stage.”

In the more than 80-year history of THE ABT that admitted Anthony, there has been only one black principal dancer, Misty Copeland. A black girl born in the slums of California, she fell in love with ballet at 13. But she was already past her prime age and was repeatedly rejected. I’ve also lost the chance to be on stage because of the color of my skin. There are “black swans” in the ballet classic “Swan Lake” but, says Misty, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black person do” Swan Lake “.

In order to reverse the light-hearted but deep-rooted prejudice, Misty’s hard work and pain are unimaginable. At 18, she finally joined ABT on her own, becoming the only African American among the more than 80 dancers of the time. At the age of 30, she suffered six fatigue fractures in her tibia and was ruled out by doctors. But even with steel plates on her legs, she had to wear dancing shoes. In 2015, Misty finally became ABT’s first black chief. Misty realized her dream and became the leading role of Swan Lake on the stage. The black dancers jumped out of the beauty of white swans!

And behind misty’s success, how many souls who love art are deterred by all kinds of tangible or intangible obstacles in the face of unreachable dreams? Anthony has a long, hard road ahead of him to become the next Misty.

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