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Grants Pass breakdancer mulls his next moves

GRANTS PASS — Hairo Torres high-fived a couple of pals at his old workplace, the Daily Courier, last week and fielded a barrage of questions about his dancing exploits on the national television show "America's Got Talent."

"Oh, man, 12 million people, are you kidding me?" he said of the reported number of viewers. "Kevin Skinner? (The guy who won) Oh he's a good guy."

It's been a whirlwind year for the 24-year-old with the unique ability to break dance and tie himself into knots like Gumby.

"A lot of people think I'm double-jointed," he said.

He auditioned in Seattle in the spring for the show and made it all the way to September's top 10, holding jobs at Fire Mountain Gems and Video World for part of that span.

Judges for the show were actor David Hasselhoff, television personality and producer Sharon Osbourne and former national tabloid editor and "Celebrity Apprentice" winner Piers Morgan, but the general public made the final votes.

Beginning Oct. 7, his 24th birthday, he and most of the show's finalists have performed five nights a week at Planet Hollywood Casino in Las Vegas. They'll finish that run between Christmas and New Year's. Torres said that's paying him three or four times as much as he made at his previous two jobs combined.

After that, Torres has a lot of options for a budding dancing career, but nothing set in stone. He says he misses Grants Pass. Torres started dancing at age 13 and began what he calls extreme stretching after an injury during high school.

He used to pull out cardboard and dance in the Daily Courier's mailroom during breaks, while working there from 2004 through 2006.

"People think that just because I did 'America's Got Talent' that I'm doing extremely well," Torres said. "The reality is, I still have to work to get jobs and put out a resume like everybody else. A lot of people think I'm famous. It's not true. It's still really hard.

"I don't have an agent. That's what everybody's telling me, I need an agent. It's been really stressful, but it's fun. I'm so much more experienced than before."

He said he'll pack his belongings and move them all to Las Vegas after the new year, for his new home base.

He's met thousands of nice people, and people from Southern Oregon have greeted him after watching his Planet Hollywood show.

A family in Sisters helped him pay bills when had to quit his jobs in the summer after he made the top 40 of the show. A member of the family was also in the "America's Got Talent" show.

He hopes he can use his talents to work with children. He recently performed and judged at a Jewish school in Florida, and in April he's going to Singapore for workshops, performances and judging.

He will try to get a spot with Cirque du Soleil, a dancing show at the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas, and has some other irons in the fire.

On the way home early last week, he said his exposure on the show may have landed him a seat on a full plane. He forgot to get a seat assignment, and when a stewardess saw his name on his ticket, she remembered his dancing and said, "You did a really good job."

He ended up on the plane with some free food.