Andile Ndlovu

Dubbed South Africa’s “Billy Elliot”, 24-year-old ballet sensation Andile Ndlovu exquisitely defies racial, gender and cultural stereotypes by proving that black men can — and should — do ballet. Currently in his third season at the Washington Ballet, one of the US’s most prestigious dance companies, Ndlovu is setting international stages alight with his virtuosity, vibrancy and distinctly African approach to dance. Ndlovu started ballet at 15, despite relentless teasing by his friends in Soweto.

He was soon spotted by choreographer Martin Schöenberg and received a scholarship to study at Ballet Theatre Afrikan. In 2008, after dancing leading roles with the South African Ballet Theatre and winning the South African International Ballet Competition, Ndlovu was offered a place at the Washington Ballet. In addition to being a role model for young, especially black, men to pursue ballet, he is determined to dance to the tune of his ultimate dream: as the world’s best ballerino.

— Lu Larche