The story of Anthony Mmesoma Madu, the 11-year-old, barefoot ballet dancer, is a great story. Even better may be the story of Daniel Owoseni Ajala, Anthony’s teacher and the founder of the Leap of Dance Academy, located on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria.
Mr. Ajala holds a business degree from the University of Lagos. But many would say his business model for the dance academy has a problem: he charges nothing for his lessons. Classes are held in his apartment, with the furniture pushed to one side. Ajala himself has hardly any dance training; he is largely self-taught from YouTube videos.*
What he does have is passion – passion for dance, and passion for educating children. In one recent interview
, he said, “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.”
Ajala himself displays that discipline, dedication and commitment. Seeking assistance online, he found dance teachers in the U.S. and St. Croix who helped him improve his own technique so he could teach the children safely. Those same teachers now offer lessons via Zoom to his students. (Scheduling is a challenge, not only because of time zone differences, but also because Ajala’s apartment gets electricity only every other day.)
While Anthony Madu’s video went viral, he is not the only student among Leap of Dance Academy’s dozen students who has a chance for a career in dance. Ajala’s first student, 19-year-old Olamide Olawale, has also received a dance scholarship; hers is to study with the dance school of the Birmingham Royal Ballet in Britain.
“Every child is talented,” says Anthony Madu’s mother in one of the videos I saw. “Our problem is that we don’t know how to discover the talents our children have.” Thanks be to God for dedicated teachers like Daniel Ajala, who help children discover their talents and develop them!