Johanna enjoying her first day of third grade at NCVA.
At just eight years old, Johanna Colon has a viral dance recital video, appeared as a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Little Big Shots, and still finds the time for online school at North Carolina Virtual Academy (NCVA).
Johanna started third grade last week, and this year marks her sixth year of dance training.
“She started bopping around to music when she was just a few months old, and by the time she could walk, she was dancing,” Johanna’s mother, Elissa Colon, said. Johanna officially started dance lessons at two years old.
Elissa knew online school was the best option for Johanna with her busy schedule of lessons and recitals during the school year.
“NCVA is very rigorous, so it keeps Johanna engaged, and the online environment means she can do school anywhere she is,” Elissa said. “We were already looking for a different option than public school because Johanna needed to be challenged with her school work. She is advanced and was bored in her classes. Then her dance recital video went viral and I needed to find a schooling option that kept school as the priority.”
In June of 2015 Johanna performed a routine channeling her inner diva in an end-of-the-year recital. Her mom recorded the performance and shared it on social media for her friends and family to watch, titling the video, “Johanna channeling Aretha Franklin!”
Johanna stretches at dance class.
“I posted it on Facebook first, and because I was running out the door, I accidentally put it on public instead of private,” Elissa said. “By the time I got back a few hours later, it had 2,000 views, and when we woke up the next morning, it had a million views!”
The video’s popularity on Facebook prompted Elissa to post it on YouTube, as well. “Within 24 hours it had a million views,” she said. “Forty-eight hours later, the Facebook video had 27 million views and the YouTube video had 15 million views. Now, the Facebook video has 53 million views and it has 27 million on YouTube. It’s not something we intended – I only wanted to share it with family! But we are very blessed.”
Johanna’s family was shocked at how quickly the video went viral. “She’s been interviewed in other countries – she went on a talk show in Brazil, and a crew from England came in to tape her for one of their shows,” Elissa said.
The sassy dance routine even caught the attention of the television show, The Talk, where the hosts shared the video with Aretha Franklin while she was a guest on the show. You can watch Johanna’s excited reaction to The Talk’s Aretha Franklin episode here.
“It’s an absolute honor that someone of her stature would even know who my child is,” Elissa said. “It is so exciting.”
NCVA has given Johanna time to pursue her love of dancing.
“With the online setting she is able to spend more time devoted to her school work which then gives her more time to dance,” Elissa said. “It also gives her the flexibility she needs to be able to go on auditions or to tape different appearances.”
Elissa appreciates that Johanna is able to interact with her teachers and her peers over the Class Connects. “I also like that all of the course information is present for the whole year,” she said. “It allows us to see how Johanna is going to progress.”
Johanna makes sure she stays focused on her studies while she dances and leaves little room for distractions. “School work comes first, then I go to dance,” Johanna said. “I don’t spend a lot of time watching TV.”
Johanna says that her first week back at school is going well so far.
“I love all my teachers,” she said. “Vocabulary is my favorite [subject]. There are so many words I don’t know; I love learning new words. Social studies is good also – it’s my first year taking it.”
The spotlight is on Johanna when she performs, but in her heart, she is dancing for her five-year-old brother, who is battling a life-threatening disease.
“He has spent most of his life in and out of the hospital, fighting for his life,” Elissa explains. “This broke Johanna’s heart and was a very difficult time for her. It is hard to see your sibling hurting, and at the same time, it’s hard to not have your parents’ attention.”
Johanna has been very supportive of her brother since he was born and her mother describes her as “wise beyond her years.”
Johanna and her little brother.
When Johanna first started to gain popularity with dance, her brother was starting to get better. “These opportunities have given Johanna a chance to shine and to have her moment of things being about her,” Elissa said. “She has loved every minute of it.”
Johanna is genuinely surprised when people point her out when she is out in public. “It makes me feel famous, which is a lot of fun,” Johanna said. “I love making people laugh and happy.”
Elissa is very proud of Johanna’s success and how she stays humble. “As her mom, I’m elated by all of this,” she said. “Johanna is a special child who is very giving. She always looks after her brother and helped him with each of his recoveries after surgery. She used half the Toys R Us gift card she received from Ellen [DeGeneres] to buy supplies for the children’s hospital her brother frequents. So to see her get to have all this positive attention, it makes my heart smile.”
Johanna’s favorite performance so far was when she was danced on Little Big Shots. “I loved spending time with Mr. [Steve] Harvey – he was really funny,” Johanna said.
Fans can catch Johanna in an upcoming new show on The CW Network called Goddesses, which is currently being taped, and in her dance studio’s upcoming winter performance of “Buddy the Elf.”