Anthony Madu, a student of the Leap of Dance Academy, performs a ballet routine in front of his mother’s shop, in Lagos.

A Nigerian boy who charmed Internet viewers with a video of his deft, barefoot ballet skills on the muddied backstreets of Lagos has been given a scholarship to the US. Anthony Madu’s story has been compared with that of the fictitious Billy Elliot, another 11-year-old boy who defied local social conventions to pursue something that he says makes him feel “on top of the world”. Anthony, however, never had to hide his talent from a disapproving parent, although he admits that his parents did once want him to become a priest.

The video of him performing pirouettes and leaps in a poor part of the Nigerian megacity became a viral hit in June. Cynthia Erivo, the British actor and singer, also of Nigerian heritage, was so moved by the boy’s talents she connected him and his teacher with the American Ballet Theatre. “They’re in Nigeria. I happen to be Nigerian as well. This felt like a kismet moment,” she told the American broadcaster NBC.

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