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Then Comes the Body: A Documentary Exploring Nigerian Ballet School, Leap of Dance Academy

 



A long time ago, a certain young man by the name of Daniel Owoseni Ajala realized he wanted to be a dancer, and more than that, he wanted to be a ballet dancer. In Nigeria of all places, a country in Africa that had little to no resources to train a ballet dancer! What were the chances of him succeeding with his dreams, he didn’t know, but this desire was stronger than the circumstances surrounding him, so he pledged to himself to make it work. For himself and for any other person out there who had dreams that seemed unreachable as a result of the circumstances they found themselves in.


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Image Credit: Daniel Owoseni Ajala, Facebook

 

Daniel Owoseni Ajala went on YouTube to learn how to become a ballet dancer and in 2017 when he decided he had learned enough to be able to teach others, he established a ballet dance school in the suburbs of Ajangbadi, Lagos, Nigeria, naming it Leap of Dance Academy. This school was designed as a tuition-free school that would professionally teach kids who wanted to learn ballet dance and equip them with the necessary materials needed to make the learning a fun experience, like ballet shoes and dresses.

 

Then on June 18, 2020, during the lockdown when online learning and sharing became prominent, Leap of Academy posted a video on Instagram of Anthony Mmesoma Madu dancing ballet in a rainy courtyard and the internet went agog. Questions like “Where did he come from?” and “Who taught him that?” flew around and even celebrities like Viola Davis reposted him. In no time, the video had over 20 million views and thousands of shares, with international bodies and other ballet teachers and dancers worldwide getting interested in Leap of Dance Academy.


Leap of Dance Academy


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Image Credit: Daniel Owoseni Ajala

In 2017, Daniel Ajala started Leap of Dance Academy with a few kids and has since gone on to admit more, making them a total of 12 kids now ranging from ages 6 to 12: Olamide Olawale, Precious Duru, Anthony Mmesoma Madu, Beauty Omondiagbe, Daniella Nnamani, Chinemerem Duru, and other. These classes originally took place in the house of Mr Ajala with the help of other online teachers via Zoom who have helped him master ballet dance and who also sometimes teach the kids virtually.

 

Leap of Dance Academy is a Nigerian Ballet School that is located in the suburbs of Lagos, Nigeria, with a total of 12 kids being professionally taught how to dance ballet. Although Mr Ajala is the owner of the school and the head teacher, he has other instructors from around the world who assist him in teaching the kids. Instructors like: Linda Hurkmans, director of the San Jose Dance Theater in California, Thalema Williams, and Mary Hubbs who also teach ballet in their own private studios.


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Image Credit: Daniel Owoseni Ajala,

 

After the video of Anthony dancing went viral, the school has had the doors of opportunities open up to them. Olawale and Anthony have received scholarships to study at prestigious dance schools in the US, and the Leap of Dance Academy has had donations coming in in large numbers. It is safe to say that the world is interested in this ballet dance school located in West Africa and that the world is ready to offer them opportunities and resources to become trained to the best standards possible.


The Documentary, Then Comes the Body


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Tribeca Film Festival

Jacob Krupnick, a film director based in NY took interest in Leap of Dance Academy after Anthony’s video went viral and traveled to Ajangbadi to see the school as well as its dancers. He wanted to get to know them and understand their lives as well as the impact of the school from a closer perspective. So his meeting and spending time with Ajala and all the member of Leap of Dance Academy birthed “Then Comes the Body” a documentary that was created in partnership with lagos-based film director, Damilola Aleje.

 

Then Comes the Body is a short documentary showcasing Leap of Dance Academy dancers on top yellow buses, spinning pirochoutte after pirochoutte. This movie explores the impact of the school on the lives of the dancers as well as their dreams and aspirations for a life outside the walls of Nigeria.

 

In his words, Krupnick says “I’m a White man who is also a filmmaker, and the themes I have constantly explored in my work centers on how it feels for non-White people to enter spaces where they haven’t historically felt welcome.”

 

This documentary is set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festivalin June and is a statement that tells Africans and the world at large that it is okay to be themselves. More than that, it tells them that it’s okay to dream because dreams come true.

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