Artist Spotlight: Kurtis Sprowls


Hometown: Orrville, Ohio

Family: “I have two brothers, one older and one younger. I am right in the middle. My mom and dad are divorced and still live in my hometown with my younger brother. My mom is engaged and will be married in October and my dad is remarried.”

Pets: “I currently don’t, but I eventually would like to get a French Bulldog and name her Luna (after the Harry Potter character).”

Go-to Relaxation Activity:  “I like to spend a lot of time with my friends whether we’re just hanging out watching a movie at someone’s house, going out to dinner or just relaxing. I’m trying to read more. I’m currently reading The Great Gatsby – I figured I’d start the summer with a classic – and A Work in Progress, a memoir by Connor Franta.

Non-dance Hobbies: “I’m really into music. I like to constantly be listening to new music and trying to find new stuff to add to my playlist.”

Favorite Restaurant in Pittsburgh: “Grit & Grace downtown. I really like to go if I have family or friends coming in. I also like Noodlehead. I really like to try new places I’ve never been.”

Favorite Food: “I love pizza. Pizza is one of my go-tos; I actually had it last night. I definitely want to try Pizza Taglio. It’s right around the corner (in East Liberty).”

Top-played Artist: “I’m really into FKA twigs and Jon Bellion. They’re very different artists, but I like both of their unique styles and music. ”

Pre-show Ritual: “I always rosin my shoes on, because I’m terrified that they’ll fall off on stage and say a little prayer, always, before I walk onstage. I definitely always go over my choreography just as a reminder to see if I forget little things …and practicing hard steps before I go on just for that extra confidence builder.”

Surprising Fun Fact: “I don’t know if it’s that shocking, but I can’t whistle, so I do this kazoo thing. Instead of whistling a song, I’ll sort of human kazoo it. People find it weird, but I can’t whistle.”


How did you get your start in dancing?

“I was really into musical theater and my mom took me to see the local high school productions. In one that we went to – The Music Man – the main character tap dances. I later learned that the guy had no experience with tap dancing before the show, so he basically had to learn it on the spot within a couple weeks, which from my experience was very hard… My mom remembers me leaning over and whispering in her ear, ‘Mom I want to be this role one day, but I want to dance better than him.’ I had always been singing and dancing around and wanted to be some sort of famous singer. Once I started dance that sort of just stopped, and I knew (dance) was more my path, my future. I started off in jazz and tap and then joined the studio’s competition team, so I had to pick up ballet because it was required. To be honest I didn’t like ballet at first. I never took it very seriously, because I was more of a jazzy, contemporary dancer.

I did that for eight or nine years, and then realized (after discovering) Petite Mort on YouTube…and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet … they are huge influences as well as Nederlands Dans Theater…I was like, ‘This is how I want to dance one day.’ I realized that I needed more technique, I needed more ballet training, so then I linked up with the Ohio Conservatory Ballet, stopped competing and took a course of fine tuning my technique and exploring more of that contemporary and classical ballet side. And that’s how I ended up here (at PBT).”


What about ballet hooked you, and convinced you to pursue it professionally?

“Personally I love the difficulty. I love how there’s always that next step, that next level that you can achieve. I know that ballet does not come naturally to me. I feel like more contemporary styles come more naturally to me. So, I love pushing myself and striving to prove to myself that I can pursue a ballet career. I love classical works; I feel like it’s very important to do those classical works, but also do new works and continue to push forward and redefine what classical ballet dancers are. We’re more than just classical works. We’re very versatile, very diverse, and I love being part of that sort of creation. I feel like ballet dancers sort of encompass the whole spectrum of dance, and that’s why I specifically chose ballet.”

Did you have a ballet epiphany – a moment that you decided it could be your career?

“I know that it was when I was 16. I was sitting down and evaluating – do I want to go to college, what do I eventually want to do with my life? Where do I see myself going, is dance more of a hobby or is it my passion, is it what I want to do? When I was 16, I feel like that was just a big year for me. It was my first summer intensive at PBT.  Coming here and being around such like-minded people, we all had the same goal to become a ballet dancer and were all very devoted… Those moments in programs (like PBT’s) were my epiphany moments. I know I had one when I attended the Jacob’s Pillow summer program two years ago. That experience changed my view of dance, my view of my direction. It was such an invaluable experience that it really changed me as a dancer as well as this past summer attending Nederlands Dans Theater’s summer program. I went there for two weeks and came back a completely different dancer and person with a whole new vision… After I decided I wanted to dance those were breakthroughs.”


Most memorable onstage moment:

“I try to make every moment memorable. From this past year some of the most memorable moments were from The Sleeping Beauty and La Bayadère, because those were the first times that I actually danced in corps roles in the PBT company. That was such a big achievement for me. Also (with PBT was) Don Quixote…I did Sancho Panzo. That was my first more leading role in a main-stage production. It was cool to do more of a character role, which really challenged and helped me to become more of a performer. When I danced in the Netherlands at their theater, we did solos in groups of three or four. I performed a Paul Lightfoot and Sol León solo from their piece Postscript. Looking back at that video, I thought, ‘This is probably one of the best times I’ve ever danced in my entire life.’ The opening ceremonies of the Jacobs Pillow festival (was another) –  throughout the show Wendy Whelan performed and Michelle Dorrance, so just being able to share the stage with those dance stars of our time was very memorable as well as performing a piece that I learned in four days. That was incredible.”


Which works are you most looking forward to being part of during the 2015-2016 Season?

“I’m really looking forward to In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.” William Forsythe is definitely one of my favorite choreographers. I love all of his work. Also Sinfonietta, I’m a huge Jiří Kylián fan. I love absolutely every single thing he does. I follow him all the way up to his most recent works as well as back when he was with Nederlands Dans Theater, so I will jump at any sort of chance to dance one of his pieces. Basically this first show is so incredible to me – Western Symphony by George Balanchine as well. I really enjoy mixed repertory programs because you get to see such a wide range, and for the dancers it’s a lot of fun. In those shows, the dancers get to dance different styles and basically show off all in one show how diverse and versatile they are, which is of huge importance to me.

Peter Pan will be a lot of fun, and it will be really cool to bring that back. PBT performed it the year before I came, and I heard so much about it. And Le Corsaire, it’s so huge and it’s such a beautiful classical ballet… So basically the entire season.”

What is the most important lesson that you took away from the PBT School Graduate Program?

“I feel like I grew up here. I moved here when I was 17 and I basically learned how to become an adult and how to become a professional dancer here. Each teacher teaches you something different. I definitely learned how to put myself out there. What have I got to lose? I’ll never know unless I try…Always be there; always be quick on your feet. You never know what you’re going to walk into every day, and it’s always good to be prepared. I learned great performance skills, and throughout my three years here I learned confidence and how important that is in auditions, and in life and on stage. It’s very important to be confident, comfortable, and strong in who you are. I feel like I learned that here.”



 What is your top goal for your first season as a professional dancer?

“I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot. Becoming a professional dancer is such a milestone in my life. My goal is to keep improving and constantly growing as an artist, to dance as much as possible and see what this year brings. You are never finished growing as a dancer. I plan to take on challenges and really push myself  and continue to grow.”