Name: Anthony Madu
School: Elmhurst Ballet School
I just hope that younger dancers from anywhere around the world … I just hope to inspire them to pursue their dreams and never give up.
Three years ago Anthony Madu was just a young Nigerian boy with dreams of becoming a dancer. Then, after a 44-second video of him practising his barefoot ballet skills on the backstreets of Lagos went viral, his life changed beyond recognition.
That video of Anthony pirouetting in the rain was watched more than 16 million times and brought offers pouring in. The 13-year-old met the Queen when she visited the ballet school that gave him a scholarship.
Anthony, now several inches taller than in his video, is in his second year at Elmhurst Ballet School in Birmingham, which is celebrating its centenary. The visit by the Queen, who is the school’s patron, was postponed last month when she contracted Covid.
Camilla, who described in 2020 how she had taken up Silver Swan ballet tutorials to keep fit, told the pupils that ballet schools were “so important”.
She said: “Every time I come here, I never cease to be impressed by the students. It’s the discipline, the manners and the pleasure that you all give everything.
“And, speaking as an ancient Silver Swan who took up ballet very, very late in life, I just had no idea quite how difficult it was. So when I go and see a performance now, I just sit and study all the movements and think, ‘I don’t know how anybody does it!’”
Carlos Acosta, artistic director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, joined Camilla for the visit and later described how Anthony’s journey mirrored his own from Cuba to Europe to study dance.
Acosta, who is a vice-president of Elmhurst and was principal guest dancer with the Royal Ballet for 17 years, said: “The opportunities facing Anthony are exactly what I faced when I first arrived in Italy at the age of 16 and then in London at the age of 18.
“It’s a whole adaptation process that could be very choking at times, but he’s been very well nurtured here and is being well cared for by teachers who understand how very hard it is for him, but I think eventually it will make him stronger in every way.”
When the Queen asked Anthony if he had always loved dancing, he replied: “Yes, since I was five years old.”
Disney announced in September that it would be making a documentary about the youngster, whose family live on the edge of the Nigerian capital, Lagos. He had little formal training there but showed great talent.
Speaking after the Queen’s visit, Anthony said of Elmhurst: “My dancing’s going well, it’s really, really great and I’m really enjoying it.”
Talking about his journey, he added: “I just hope that younger dancers from anywhere around the world … I just hope to inspire them to pursue their dreams and never give up.”