Leon “Kida” Burns of Elk Grove made global headlines Monday night when the judges of popular reality show “So You Think You Can Dance” crowned him the season 13 winner.
The 14-year-old wowed audiences this summer with his hip-hop skills, which he has been honing in classes and competitions throughout Sacramento and the Bay Area since he was just a tyke. He got his beginnings with the Elk Grove-based Family First Dance Crew, made up of him and three of his siblings, who are also hip-hop dancers.
This spring, he tried out for “So You Think You Can Dance” as a solo performer. This season marked the first time the show was open to young dancers under its new title, “So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation.” The show featured dancers ages 8 to 13, often pairing them with adult dancers from seasons past.
“I just felt like it was my time to shine, for all the kids who were never going to be able to be on the show,” Burns said by telephone from Los Angeles, where he had just finished recording the show. “Us kids can do anything that adults can. I really wanted to go for it and show what I could do.”
Each week, contestants were either cut from the show or selected for the next round based on votes from viewers and commentary from celebrity judges Paula Abdul, Jason Derulo, Nigel Lythgoe and Maddie Ziegler. Each contestant worked with an “all-star” dance coach for solos, duets and group numbers in hip-hop, contemporary, tap and ballroom. Burns’ coach was professional hip hop dancer Fik-Shun Stegall, a previous winner of the competition.
“My favorite part would have to be the live shows,” Burns said. “Being able to go onstage week after week, trying new styles, and working with the all-star Fik-Shun.”
Burns has been in the media spotlight for much of his life, including being featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2010, the Queen Latifah Show in 2014 and Rachael Ray in 2015.
Burns is on home study with Las Flores High School, an alternative school in the Elk Grove Unified School District for students who attend school on flexible schedules. He won $250,000 from “So You Think You Can Dance” and told media outlets that he plans to use it to buy a house for his mother, Tanisha Hunter Burns.
His father, Leon Burns Sr., died of influenza in 2014, leaving his mother to raise their seven children.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” the young dancer said. “When I won the show, I kept thinking about him because I knew a lot of things were happening, and I knew he was up there making things happen a lot of the time.”