In the dance world, it pays to stand out. In March 2012, Harlem native Joshua Johnson made The New York Times by tap-dancing on the subway to pay for his Pennsylvania State University tuition. Next week, the college senior will perform at a much larger venue: Madison Square Garden at the New York Knicks’ opening night of the NBA season.
Johnson learned to tap in school from Broadway Dance Center faculty member and Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk performer Omar Edwards. The rhythms came naturally to him, Johnson said. When grants and scholarships fell short of covering the cost of college, he supplemented his off-campus job with weekend trips to his home city, where he would earn $200–$400 performing on subway trains.
Since first capturing the media’s attention, the marketing and communications double major made a charming, starstruck appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” where he demonstrated that public speaking skills can help dancers win over audiences as much as their technique. He also appeared on “ABC World News with Diane Sawyer,” performed on “Dancing with the Stars,” and even taught Katie Couric a few tap moves.
For his MSG debut, Johnson—a huge basketball fan—will be joined by other tappers as well as members of the Knicks City Dancers. And the performance (game, to sports fans) is already sold out! “The love for basketball has been with me since day one,” said Johnson. “Now I have the opportunity to take something else [tap-dancing] I hold dear to my heart and perform in the world’s most famous arena in my hometown of New York.”