SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Leroy Martinez didn't expect all this attention.
Martinez, 29, of Lincoln, Calif., has been recognized at the mall, asked to pose for photos with people and late last month became the darling of the Twitterverse.
Known by friends and family as the Panda Bear, he danced his way into America's heart earlier this month when his audition on "So You Think You Can Dance" aired on Fox TV.
The rotund 5-foot-4 Martinez popped, spun on his head and did back flips during his seven minutes on the air.
The judges didn't give him a ticket to Vegas - the next phase of the contest - but he did win their accolades for his love of dance and involvement with Peacemakers, a Placer County, Calif., hip-hop crew that works with youths.
Peacemakers performs at schools and churches, and offers classes that come with positive messages about nonviolence and character.
Martinez described his tough upbringing to the judges, saying most of his male relatives spent time in prison.
"I'm in love with this guy," said judge Adam Shankman repeatedly during the show's taping.
And so, apparently was America. Hundreds of viewers used Twitter and Facebook to express their affection for Martinez. "Holding it down for us big boys" said one tweet, while others called him "adorable," "a great dancer" and "wonderful human being." There were professions of love and at least one tweeted marriage proposal. Now folks are petitioning to have Martinez perform in the finale.
"The whole world sees him the way I do now," said his wife, Tami.
All this notoriety is paying off for Martinez, who has had eight job offers but says there are no plans to leave Lincoln or his dog-sitting job in Loomis, Calif., at Aunt Cynthia's Bed and Biscuit.
He recently started a new after-school dance program called Amplified Dance in a tiny house on D Street in Lincoln, courtesy of New Song Community Church next door.
At a recent class, 10 students ages 9 to 15 practiced for a show on the tiny 20- by 12-foot dance floor. Martinez - in an aqua T-shirt emblazoned with a Panda - took them through their paces.
He said the free after-school program is needed to battle the influence of two sets of gangs that have set up shop in the area and to give kids something to do in an area with little recreation for youngsters.
"There are a lot of kids but not a lot of teen-friendly venues," said Tami Martinez, who manages the program with the help of a handful of volunteers.
The two-hour dance class is followed by two hours of food, refreshment and conversation. Leroy Martinez usually offers a word for the day to evoke conversation about character.
"You don't have to dance to come," Martinez said. "If you just want to hang out, we provide chairs and somebody to talk to."
Admirers have sent donations to both Amplified Dance and Peacemakers since the show aired. Martinez says the donations to Amplified Dance will be used for food, sports drinks and T-shirts for students. But the biggest need is for a new dance space.
The month-old program is still small - 13 kids - but Martinez anticipates many more, as a third of the students signed up in the week after his audition aired. Already Mar-tinez and his students are limited to hip-hop moves that don't include flips or break dancing because of the lack of space.
Eventually the Martinezes would like to expand the program to multiple days. They are especially interested in starting a Friday evening program.
"It keeps them out of trouble," said Tami Martinez. "It's a healthy outlet and is character building."