“Everyone can dance,” Kaelynn Harris says with a laugh during a break from rehearsing for an upcoming performance with Gwen Stefani in L.A. “Everyone has rhythm, it just depends if you can dance on the beat or not.” She makes it sound, and look, effortless—dancing on the beat is something the petite 19-year-old, affectionately known as “KK,” is insanely good at. Just Google her name plus “Anaconda”—she tells me the Nicki Minaj track is one of her favorites to dance to right now—to see Harris in action (she’s the first one front and center). It’s a talent that won her second place on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew in 2012 as part of 8 Flavahz, the youngest all-female team to ever compete on the show. It’s also put her on stages around the world supporting the likes of Ciara, Usher, Willow Smith, Sade, and Britney Spears.
Harris has been dancing since she a little kid growing up with her mom and sister in Riverside, California. But there’s no fancy academy in her past—she’s almost entirely self-taught. “When I was little, my sister really liked to dance and since we came from a single-parent household it was really, really hard to put us both in classes, so my mom put my older sister in dance,” she says. “When she would come back from class she would teach me the steps she had learned.” When Harris got older, it was movies, Instagram clips, and YouTube videos of greats like Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson that helped hone her skills. “All my training is from my sister or from a TV or computer,” she says with a laugh.
Now little girls are probably watching her Instagram videos and emulating her lightning-quick, precision moves—Harris has nearly half a million followers. “I don’t like calling people fans—I think that’s a bit extra,” she says, modestly. “But it’s my supporters that help me a lot through my sad days, so I really do appreciate them.”
When asked if she has a dream list of people she’d like to dance for, Harris doesn’t hesitate. “Janet Jackson, Chris Brown, Madonna, and, to make my sister happy, Tina Turner,” she says. “Once I start checking names off that list, I’ll know I’m doing something right.”