Luke Watterson of Ellwood City shows some of the trophies he has won at dance competitions. — Denny Henry/NEWS

At 14, Luke Watterson won Teen Mr. Dance of America 2007 in Las Vegas.

It is his third consecutive title at the Dance Master of America national competitions. Previously, he captured the title of Master Dance of America of 2003 and Junior Mr. Dance of 2005.

“In July, I won the Mr. Teen Dance title with a jazz dance,” Luke said. “I wanted to prove to myself that I’m not just a tap dancer. This helps me to grow as an all-around dancer.”

Dance competitions are not only about fancy footwork. At the national level, dance competitions are judged on audition, talent and interview, with the interview process accounting for 25 percent of their score. Students have to win their regional competitions before they can move on to the nationals.

Luke owes his interest in dance to his older sisters, Brooke and Renee, who were dancing at Barb’s School of Dance in Ellwood City. When the owner, Barb Neeley, wanted to start a class for boys, his sisters volunteered Luke, who was four years old.

“I had my first recital when I was five and I loved performing,” Luke said. “I did a couple, showy moves and strutted off the stage waving to the audience.”

Every year, Luke chose to go back and dance some more. He was also good at football, baseball and basketball.

“A few years ago I found I couldn’t balance dance and sports,” he said. “There just weren’t enough hours in the day. Dance became my number one priority and it is going to be my future.”

When Neeley, who lived in West Virginia, closed her dance studio in Ellwood City after 22 years, Luke continued his studies with her. Two times a week, Luke leaves immediately after school for Morgantown, a two-hour drive one way. After practice, he arrives back in Ellwood about 11 p.m. On Fridays. he makes the trip to West Virginia and returns on Sunday.

His mother, Pam Watterson, does the majority of the driving. She said Luke does his homework in the car during the school year and when he gets tired, he sleeps.

Pam Watterson said the time spent in the car together is good bonding time. And there is a lot of it. In February, she bought a used car with 22,000 miles on it and put 15,000 miles on it by August.

“It is all worth it to see Luke succeed, and he appreciates it,” Pam Watterson said.

Luke has had various successes, including dancing with the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular show in Nashville for eight weeks in 2003.

Vaughn Hudspath, artistic director of the New Castle Playhouse Mini Stars, worked with Luke for three years.

“When the Mini Stars were first formed in 2002, Luke was 10 years old and already an outstanding dancer on a national level,” Hudspath said. “He was quick to develop his singing voice and soon became a complete performer.

“His magnetism as an entertainer continues to grow and his future as an adult performer is assured.”

When Luke first began performing in public, people would tell him that he reminded them of Gene Kelly. The youngster had no idea who Gene Kelly was, but eventually he rented Gene Kelly movies and he still enjoys watching them.

Luke has many supportive friends to hang out with when he is not dancing or on the road. They enjoy going to school events and sports events.

In school, Luke likes political studies, history, Civil War history and literature. He does well in all subjects but said math iss his least favorite.

Luke and his mother live on Crescent Avenue and they are active in the First United Methodist Church.

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