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nigeria dance – marseille

Anthony Mmesoma Madu, 11, turns pirouette after pirouette.

Though the conditions for such dancing are all wrong — dangerous, even — he twirls on, flying barefoot into an arabesque and landing it. He indulges the camera with a smile, but only for a moment, before assuming a look of fierce determination, lifting his eyes toward the sky, his lithe arms and graceful fingers following closely along.

The wide reach of the video — it has been seen more than 20 million times on social media platforms — has turned a spotlight on the unlikely story of a ballet school in a poor suburb of Lagos, Nigeria: the Leap of Dance Academy.

Beginning this Friday, Marseille will play host to the 13th edition of Manifesta, Europe’s nomadic urbanism biennale, which runs until 29 November. Its organisers are seeking to integrate creative discussion and interventions within the social, cultural and political fabric of the metropolitan region, creating a better city in the long run – and not just happy memories for attendees. To inform a programme that’s reflective of this ambition, Manifesta has run a comprehensive pre-biennale study led by famed urban designer Winy Maas and summarised in a lengthy 1,200-page report named “The Grand Puzzle”. Maas says that the study highlights “the potentials, necessities and beauties of Marseille”. Suggestions include new designs for hiking trails through the city, improvements to housing and the removal of cul-de-sacs – work that will influence the talks and discussions at the biennale. This report, and the event, will provide concrete suggestions to guide both Marseillais and Manifesta attendees to realise their city’s potential.