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On June 14, Rito "RJ" Lopez, Jr. raises his hoops in the air after hoop dancing for millions of viewers during the season finale of NBC's Little Big Shots.

(Photo Credit: Evans Vestal Ward/NBC)

RJ Lopez Appears on Little Big Shots

On June 14, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Rito “RJ” Lopez, Jr. hoop-danced into America’s hearts.

The 10-year-old dancer appeared on NBC’s program Little Big Shots, a children’s talent show hosted by comedian Steve Harvey.

Last summer, Lopez and his family were flown to the Warner Bros. studio in Hollywood for rehearsals and again for the actual filming. At the time, RJ was 9 years old. During their visit, RJ and his family were given VIP treatment.

“It felt really cool because it felt like I got to go behind the scenes,” Lopez said. “We got to get a tour of the entire studio. We also got to see a lot of the TV shows. My dad took us to Universal Studios, and it was really fun and really cool.”

At 3 years old, RJ learned to dance. A year later, he received his first set of hoops. Since then, RJ has danced with his family dance group, the Yellow Bird Indian Dancers. His siblings, mother Christy, and her family perform often at Talking Stick Resort and Casino, as well as all around the nation. At 6 years old, RJ won the youth division of the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at Phoenix’s Heard Museum.

“We posted a video called ‘The YouTube Sensation’ on YouTube, which went viral,” Christy said. “We received an email from a representative at Little Big Shots asking if RJ was interested in being on the show. At first I said no, because I was scared and nervous for RJ to be on national television. But, after much thought, we told them that RJ was going to do it.”

“I was really happy and excited to go because they said it was going to be in Hollywood. I thought it was going to be a really fun experience,” said RJ.

As the time came to dance, RJ and many other talented young contestants were put to the test. He was nervous to perform in front of the cameras on stage and potentially to millions of people watching on TV. But host Steve Harvey and members of the studio audience watched in amazement.

“I was nervous because I didn’t want to trip or fall; that would’ve been embarrassing. I was kind of scared. My mom and dad said ‘Good luck’ to me, and I just danced. It was pretty fun. After I danced, I felt pretty confident and was excited to see myself on television,” said RJ.

“I was proud of him for being brave enough to go on stage, in front of all these people, cameras and lights. He really worked for it and really prepared himself because he had to film twice. I was proud of him for being dedicated and not quitting,” said Christy.

The family left impressed by Harvey.

“Steve Harvey is really nice and funny. He says whatever comes to mind. RJ made an eagle out of his hoops, and he showed Steve how to make it. Steve attempted it and called his the ‘ghetto bird version.’ He’s funny. He was really respectful and it was easy for him to talk to RJ,” added Christy.

Native comedian Moonie Lilman shared a Facebook post of RJ’s performance. The post received more than 457,000 views, 13,500 shares and 13,600 likes. Positive comments flooded in from around the world. Many admired RJ’s talent.

“Everyone was calling me a celebrity; I thought it was pretty cool. I want to dance for the rest of my life and become really good at it,” said RJ.

For more information on Little Big Shots, visit www.nbc.com/little-big-shots.