Leon “Lil Kida” Burns was congested, sniffling throughout the conversation. He could be excused if he were a little sick—the night before he’d performed with Usher on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” and the week before that he had won “So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation.”
The Elk Grove 14-year-old admits he never thought he had a shot, and even judge Nigel Lythgoe described Burns as “probably the least trained out of all the dancers here.” Yet the diminutive Burns outperformed thousands of hopefuls who had auditioned in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, a field that dwindled down to 100 dancers, then 50, then 10, and finally Burns alone.
“Before the show, I was more into hip-hop, but now I want to start learning different styles, like contemporary,” says Burns, who at several points felt out of his league on the show. “I really felt that way with everything—jazz, contemporary, ballroom. I didn’t know if I’d be able to do it.”
Burns began dancing at age 4. “Dancing (was) already installed in me, like when I was born,” he says. “I just cannot stop dancing.”
At 8, he joined local dance group The Art of Teknique, which posted videos on YouTube that led to performances on the Ellen DeGeneres, Queen Latifah and Rachael Ray shows. The highlight, though, has been performing with Usher onstage at the last BET Awards. That, Burns says, “was one of the best feelings ever.”
Another great feeling came with his announcement that he would use the $250,000 winnings from “SYTYCD” to buy his mother, Tanisha, a new house. His father died two years ago, and she’s been raising him alone ever since.
As for what’s next, Burns says he’s just waiting for someone to call. It’s already happened once. “I was just chilling for a minute, sitting at my house, and the next thing I know, Usher calls and I’m in LA performing on Jimmy Kimmel’s show,” he says. “Things are going to start picking up for me, I already know.”