Yakub Saunders

The explosive young dancer, Yakub Saunders talks to Shelley Carter about his BGT audition, dealing with nerves and his dance school in Harborne

Yakub Saunders initially took to the Britain’s Got Talent stage with a quiet confidence that belied the explosive, flamboyant moves that were to leave the judges agog. Aged just 10-years-old, Yakub’s high energy moves to the Lion King’s He Lives in You left the audience with distinctly leaky eyes. He took four resounding seals of approval from the judges with a muted thank you and left the stage with a sweet wave before hugging his proud foster mum, Juliet who’d been nervously watching in the wings with Ant and Dec.

This isn’t one of those much-parodied tales of woe familiar to the TV talent contest format, but Yakub hasn’t had an easy ride. He joined his foster parents, John and Juliet Short, along with his sister two years ago. Until then Yakub had never danced in an official setting but loved to move. Juliet had once owned a dance school in Harborne, now called Mezzo Dance Company run by Adam Nightingale and Kirsty Nicholls.

NATURALLY GIFTED

Juliet thought the siblings would benefit from the focus dance offers as well as the opportunity to build friendships and above all enjoy it. It turns out Yakub is particularly naturally gifted and took to it immediately. He attends classes twice a week in Harborne but dances for more like 12 hours in total with extensive practice at home. There’s even a tumble track in the garden so he can perfect the acro moves safely.

Yakub had been working on his BGT audition routine for two months but still felt understandably nervous. Although he had danced in competitions previously, they attract nowhere near the 4,000-strong studio audience of the BGT crowd. Yakub was allowed a dummy run because of his young age which Juliet says he made the biggest mess of! She says it was as though he was disorientated. Juliet took him into a side room, created cardboard cut-outs of the judges and made it all into a game which clearly worked because Yakub nailed his actual audition. He said he managed the nerves by blocking out the people and just focusing on the music.

Having had to persuade social services that it was a good idea for Yakub to enter the competition, Juliet was keen for it to be a positive experience whatever happened and thankfully it was. She says that everyone on the show was lovely and Ant and Dec were particularly brilliant with Yakub backstage, so she breathed a big sigh of relief. Yakub was keen to impress Simon Cowell above all the others which he most definitely did. Simon’s enthusiastic review including the suggestion that Yakub could be a contender to win the show couldn’t have been more glowing.

NERVOUS WAIT

Yakub now has a nervous wait to see if he has made it to this year’s live finals. Of his experience so far, he says: “It was a day and performance I will always remember. I was so nervous but it was so exciting. Dancing in front of the judges and the audience was really scary but it felt great afterwards.” He adds: “I wish all the other contestants luck and look forward to seeing the rest of the auditions.”

Naturally, as well as Juliet and John and Yakub’s sister who was in the audience, Yakub’s dance teachers are incredibly proud of him. Teacher, Adam says: “Yakub has always had that spark – he just needed to believe in himself a bit more. To have such an amazing talent at only 10 is incredible. Kirsty and I are so proud of him. It is so rewarding for us to see one of our dancers do so well. We really believe in him and believe that he can go all the way in this competition. He deserves it. He is the hardest working little lad.”

If you missed Yakub’s show-stopping audition it’s well worth a watch on YouTube. Fingers crossed for a trip to the live finals!