BUFFALO - Kurtis Sprung of Caroga Lake was 3 years old when his mother asked him if he wanted to go to a dance class. His older sister, Brittany, was already taking classes, and Sprung joked and said yes to dancing because at that age, he said yes to everything.
The young Sprung never could have imagined how far that simple "yes" would take him. He couldn't have known that 18 years later, he would be named the winner of the top-level Mr. Dance at the Dance America Competition.
But that is what happened this July in Orlando, Fla. Sprung defeated around 20 other top young men to take the title.
Kurtis Sprung, formerly of Caroga Lake, performs at the Dance America Competition in Orlando, Fla., in July. He won the top-level Mr. Dance.
Kurtis Sprung is shown with Jessica Fry, Miss Dance of America winner.
To win the title, Sprung had to perform better than dancers who had been on "Billy Elliot" on Broadway and another from the San Francisco Ballet Company, considered one of the best in the country.
When the second runner-up's name was called and Sprung realized he was the winner, the moment was unreal, he said.
"When it was narrowed down to two and they announced the other boy's name as the runner-up, it was pretty unreal," Sprung said.
"I had been training for two years, and I had done everything I could do," he said.
His father, Bob Sprung, said his son's Orlando event was one
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of the few he and his wife have missed. Bob Sprung said when he got the call from his son that he had won, he could hear the joy in his son's voice through his son's tears.
"He was crying; we were in tears. We've been chasing this for a long time," Bob Sprung said.
Kurtis Sprung has been competing since he was 8 years old and has been in competitions in Las Vegas and Hawaii. He has won previous titles, including Mr. Dance of Western New York and Junior Mr. Dance of Western New York.
Kurtis Sprung said the people he met at the Orlando competition started to feel like family since they were spending almost all of their time together.
Competing in the event and winning the title means a great deal for his future in dance, he said, since so many people he meets in the dance world are involved with Dance Masters.
"I've never had a [dancing] job where someone isn't from Dance Masters," Sprung said.
Sprung said the hardest part of the competition was not letting other dancers' work influence his. He said he had to stay focused and true to himself and not let other dancers' techniques or moves affect his performance.
"You have to stay true to what you do as an artist," Sprung said. "I just had to stay true to who I was."
To prepare, he had to put more than two years of work into perfecting his technique and routine for the competition.
Sprung is going into his senior year at the University of Buffalo with a dual major of dance and mathematics. He is also a member of the Chapter 8 Dance Masters team in Buffalo.
Sprung's future in dance is looking bright.
He has an opportunity to join an international dance troupe known as The Bad Boys of Dance and offers to go to Los Angeles to work with talent agents. He also has opportunities to join several prestigious ballet companies.
His father said his son recently had the chance to fly to Los Angles for a music video project.
However, Kurtis Sprung is in no hurry to take one of these offers, and instead plans to spend some time thinking about what he wants to do. He said his first thought is paying off his student loans.
"I'll just let the year play out in May," Sprung said.
Bob Sprung said his son was offered a contract by the Bad Boys of Dance after the competition, but told the group he wanted to wait until after he graduates from college.
Bob Sprung said he hopes his son will get to do whatever he wants to do.
"I sort of dream right along with him," Bob Sprung said.