Ne-Yo said his moves didn’t seem human. Jennifer Lopez said he gave her goosebumps.
Local dancer Leon “Kida The Great” Burns is at it again, competing for dominance on the fourth season of NBC’s “World of Dance.” Fans may recognize Kida as the winner of the youth version of “So You Think You Can Dance” in 2016.
Kida, now 18, has been posting dance videos for a decade. His precision, innovation and charm have earned him countless fans and followers. His Instragam posts are popular.
“I can get on there every day and show my fans what I created or show my creative process,” he said. “I always want to show people that I’m still working and working as hard as possible.”
Kida is performing on “World of Dance” in the junior division with fellow hip-hop dancer and social media influencer, Bailey Sok. The two have followed each other on Instagram and have been featured in some of the same national showcases, but had never danced together before it was suggested that they partner for the show.
“Two kids, two powerhouses coming together. I said ‘if she’s down, I’m down,’” Kida shared.
“I always wanted to dance with her because of her technique. She’s so unique especially at her age. There’s not too many kids that are 15, 16 who can dance like her,” he continued.
The two make their synchronized steps seem effortless.
“It just comes with hard work and practice. It was literally days on the show when Bailey and I didn’t sleep, trying to perfect our craft,” he shared.
The duo’s semi-final performance airs on Tuesday, August 11. Having won a major talent showcase before, all eyes have been on Kida.
“It’s definitely added pressure, but I just never let it get to me,” he said. “I never let myself say, ‘oh I won this other show, so I could do it again.’”
He may be genuinely humble, but his competitive nature makes this young man a beast.
“I just love to dance. I just wanted to compete against whoever was in front of us,” he said.
Dance competitions and social media are helping increase the visibility for dancers.
“I honestly feel that shows like ‘World of Dance’ are a great platform,” Kida said. “There are so many dancers who aren’t really shown or televised. There are so many platforms today like TikTok, like Instagram and Triller, to where you can show off your style. There’s someone in the world right now who has a style that they created that no one has ever seen before.”
Kida says he strives to be different from those who simply mimic what they see other performers doing.
“I’m trying to create my own lane,” he shared.
“If I can somehow figure out how to advance the style I’m doing now to the 10th power, that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Kida has appeared in videos with Chris Brown and Usher. Both performers are known for their lyrics and dance ability. Kida says his mother introduced him to all the singers from the “80s and 90s” and had all of Usher’s albums, so getting the chance to dance with him was special.
“The fact that I’ve been able to be in the same room with Usher, I was like, ‘Wow. I must be doing something right.’ It was definitely a blessing. He even wanted me to choreograph and I was like, ‘Wow, that was a whole other level right there.’ I was what, 16 at the time. People always compare him to Usher to Chris Brown, who’s a better dancer (than me), but man, I’m just doing what I love.”
Kida says he’s grateful for the positive feedback he’s gotten from “World of Dance” judges like Ne-Yo, J Lo and Twitch, whom he’s worked with before. He and Bailey Sok took what the judges have said and made their performances even better.
“I can’t wait for you guys to see the rest of what occurs.”
Just like with “So You Think You Can Dance,” Kida is sworn to secrecy and can’t tell anyone how he ultimately did on “World of Dance,” which was taped earlier this year, prior to the COVID-19 shutdowns. He promises, however, that good things are on the horizon, including a Netflix series.
Acting isn’t completely new for Kida. He appeared in the 2012 dance movie, “Battlefield America” with Marques Houston of Immature and “You Got Served” fame.
“Dance will always be my first love, but this is a dope opportunity to branch out more,” he said.
Kida comes from a family of dancers and showed potential early on.
“I wanted to dance so bad. I knew. I had my mom put me in a class when I was five or six. I was in there every day. I was one of the last ones to leave the studio. That’s all I wanted to do.
“I’ve been committed to dance from day one and God has definitely shown me that I’m doing the right thing and that it is paying off,” he said.
Kida has advice for others looking to find their footing in dance.
“As long as you’re putting that work into what you love, there’s no doing bad by that.”
He’s also teaching others his craft through a new endeavor, Dance with Kida. He’s still taking sign-ups for the online lessons that were born out of the coronavirus pandemic. With studios closed down and dance battles cancelled due to orders to social distance, he wanted to give folks the chance to still dance and work on their skills.
A strong work ethic, he says, is vital in the industry.
“The dancers that you see (being successful) didn’t get there by accident. If you put the work in I’m telling you, it’ll pay off.”
By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer