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It’s no surprise that the 19-year-old dancer Kida Burns, aka “Kida the Great,” acts so naturally over Zoom, as he’s been connecting with people through screens for years. Precocious even by the standards of a youthful profession, Kida is best known for hitting perhaps the smoothest nae nae of all time, with an impeccable timing gained in-part from watching films like Step Up, and Breakin’. Over the course of our conversation, he listens and laughs with nothing but good energy and charisma, lighting up the screen as he would a stage.
A Sacramento native, Kida is a California boy through and through. He grins when asked about the land of milk, honey, and quinoa, which he says shaped him into the man and performer he is today. “Sacramento has molded me. It's kept me grounded, kept me humble,” he explains. “I am Sacramento.”
Kida began dancing at the age of four, and by the time he was 14, he was voted America’s favorite dancer on So You Think You Can Dance: Next Generation. That same year, he danced on stage with Usher. It’s a period that he still holds dear: “2014 was a special time. That’s when the battle happened, when I hit that nae nae and everyone went crazy. But I would honestly have to say that's one of my hardest working years, even though I was so young. I was training – even more than I do now, because I didn’t want to be put in a box. I wanted to be able to transcend myself so I could dance with anybody,” he says.
But it wasn’t until his appearance on So You Think You Can Dance that Kida really started to see himself as a dancer. “I was never open to trying anything new,” he says. “I just stuck to hip-hop because that's what I'd always done. But once I tried tap, it took my dancing to a whole new level. I realized that I could be anything, that I'm not just a hip-hop dancer. On the show I was doing stuff I’d never done, like contemporary, jazz, and ballroom. I shocked myself every week. It was an eye-opener. I realized that I don't just dance, I'm an artist; I'm a mover. I can do many things.”
Now, at 19 years old, Kida is going viral every other week from his dance videos on Instagram. Although he’s been teaching his peers how to stay on beat and perform for years, the amount of people he’s been able to reach in such a short period of time still surprises him. “I get DMs from all over the world saying, ‘I have depression and watching your videos helps me through it,’ and I'm like, 'Wow,'” Kida explains, “I never thought that I would hear somebody say that, especially because I'm just doing what I love.”
Like many artists, Kida was introduced to his practice by someone dear to him, in this case, his older brother Saheem Sanchez, who is also a dancer. But as Saheem is deaf, the most important lesson he taught Kida was how to feel the music, how to let the music move you. They’re lessons that have never left Kida, which is apparent when you watch him dance; Kida fully gives his body over to the song, and whatever comes out, comes out. Thinking can only cloud his creativity.
“Feeling is the most important thing, because if you can't feel the beat, you're just going to be dancing all over the place,” he says. “That's the most important thing I've learned from my brother, the GOAT. He taught me everything I know. I don't know if I would be here right now without him.”
Kida’s uncanny ability to connect music and motion are apparent through the widely-liked choreographed videos that he posts weekly on Instagram. They’re something akin to free dance lessons, a fact Kida doesn’t mind at all. He loves to teach, as it allows him to connect with others. It’s a form of creating that he missed during the pandemic. “I love creating in one room, one energy that we all can just vibe from,” he says.
Kida will be connecting and vibing at Red Bull BC One, where he’ll lead a Choreo and Musicality workshop. It will be a chance for him to give other dancers an inside look into his unique style and approach to sets, combos, and routines. The workshop will be followed by a performance at the Red Bull BC One National Final + Camp, in Orlando. For Kida, Red Bull is the perfect partner for him, as it’s played a key role in “putting dance on the map."
Whether he’s teaching, performing, or simply creating, dance has always been a part of Kida’s life — he eats, sleeps, and breathes it. And whether there’s an audience or not, or whether he’s teaching or not, Kida and his dancing are in it for the long haul. For him, the future of dance is something beyond even his own ambitions; it’s a global phenomenon, and it’s just getting started.
As Kida puts it, “What I'm most excited about is that dance is reaching another level. An athlete can get paid millions of dollars and his talents can be recognized on a global scale. Dance is finally starting to get that same recognition. Dancing is going to be in the Olympics. That's so crazy! It's surreal. I'm just excited for what's to come, honestly.”
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