From BRB’s Dance Track programme to travelling the world with Ballet Cymru, the young dancer, Jakob Myers, is living the dream
There’s no way Jakob Myers would have chosen to pursue dance as a hobby as a child. Despite living in a household full of music and playing the violin, it just wasn’t on his radar. However, when Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Dance Track programme rolled into his Moseley school, Jakob’s life took an unexpected turn.
Dance Track has been delivering workshops to primary school pupils in the city for 25 years, identifying young talent and encouraging them to dance. Through the programme, many children who wouldn’t have tried dancing have gone on to forge successful careers which is exactly what happened to Jakob.
He was spotted and invited to attend free weekly dance classes, he was gifted ballet shoes and as part of the programme given the opportunity to look behind the scenes at Birmingham Royal Ballet and attend performances. Jakob can’t put his finger on why he was chosen as one of the 80 budding dancers that year other than perhaps he displayed some natural musicality thanks to his violin playing. We think he might be being modest.
Jakob took to dance immediately and moved to Elmhurst School of Dance where he studied for eight years as a day pupil and where he began to contemplate dance as a career not just a hobby. He loved his time at Elmhurst, relishing his experience including his first performance in BRB’s Nutcracker at the Hippodrome – his first time performing aside from for friends and family. Undaunted by the experience, he says: “It was a big highlight. It’s very dark in a big auditorium like the Hippodrome which is less nerve-wracking than a smaller venue where you can see the audience’s faces.”
Growing up, ballet was far from ethnically diverse and Jakob didn’t see people who looked like him apart from dance legend and honorary Brummie, Carlos Acosta. He says in lower school he was the only black boy, but that by the time he left Elmhurst that had changed significantly. Jakob describes diversity in ballet as a ‘slow burner’. Schemes like Dance Track which have now been adopted by ballet companies all over the country in various forms remove barriers and boost inclusion enriching the scene for everyone.
During his second year in the sixth form at Elmhurst, Jakob had an injury which meant he couldn’t dance for a year. The time away from dance cemented his love of the art form missing it so much he knew he didn’t want to do anything else. After attending a summer school at Ballet Cymru, the director was so impressed with Jakob that he offered him a spot in the company without even going through the audition process.
There are 500 applicants for just 15 to 20 spots, so Jakob was delighted. Ballet Cymru is a touring company and Jakob has travelled globally performing both classical ballet and more contemporary productions, so last year they toured a contemporary mixed bill as well as Gisele.
Covid restrictions obviously affected rehearsing and performing and ultimately bonding with the rest of the company. Training and creating content at home wasn’t ideal but Jakob turned it into a positive and found it a good time for reflection. Jakob used to consider his dream casting would be a BRB soloist role like the prince in The Nutcracker, but he’s also started to enjoy pieces that feel more intimate. Watch this space…