Ballet in Nigeria : Billy Elliot is alive and well in Nigeria !
The school opened in 2017 in a very modest suburb of Lagos, the economic capital of Nigeria with a population of 20 million. The students of this school are from very modest families and in many cases have never heard of classical dance before arriving at this school. The founder, Daniel, himself learned dance through tutorials and internships on the internet. But the techniques he teaches are very much at a professional level. Daniel created this school solely with his own personal savings, passion and willpower. "We can't afford expensive training equipment, but at least we can introduce this beautiful art to a new generation," he says. This is a somewhat dangerous project in Nigeria, where there are many Islamic and Christian fundamentalists : At first, neighbors were quite skeptical about ballet in the streets of Lagos. Often people said, "This is not a dance for good Christians!", Daniel responds to that : "We want to show them that classical dance is based on discipline, which is important for the development of the children,". Now, a few years later, when his students practice the "grands jetés" or "the demi-pliés" on the street, even if the neighbors are still curious and surprised, the practice is now praised and supported by the local community. Ifoma Madu, the mother of Antony, the only boy ( at the time ) among the students, watches her son lead the dance with great pride. "It's wonderful, it's extraordinary. I'm very happy to see him dance." (Now there are now two boys among the students !) "It's a great opportunity and window to the world." The young Olamide Olawole, age 15, wants to make it her future profession and become an instructor in her turn : "I would like children all over the world to be able to have this experience", and, confides the young teenager, putting on her slippers damaged by the effort and the ambient humidity : "I want them to be able to express their feelings through dance too". Daniel : "I always tell my kids that I want them to have the opportunities that their parents never had. It's so much more than just dance. Being black can come with being sidelined from so many things. Many Nigerians have come to believe that because they are Black, and Nigerian and come from poverty, that they can't be successful or have opportunities. I want them to know that they can overcome adversity and make their dreams a reality. I do my best to be an example and show that if I can push through without resources, they can too. If you don't have the resources, create something out of nothing". In Nigeria, where many people live a rather harsh and almost hopeless life, Saint Daniel, who against all odds, offers discipline and dreams to these children of a frankly a very poor neighborhood, is simply an amazing young man and worthy of great respect ! Now with some international recognition, Daniel and his students have been invited to London, New York and the Scala in Milan!