6-year-old Raleigh girl’s dance performance wows the Internet

Six-year-old Johanna Colon took the Internet by storm with her Aretha Franklin "Respect" dance.
Six-year-old Johanna Colon took the Internet by storm with her Aretha Franklin "Respect" dance. cliddy@newsobserver.com

When 6-year-old Johanna Colón stepped on stage to dance to Aretha Franklin’s version of “Respect” at a dance school recital over the weekend, she knew she had to bring some sass.

“You have to be spicy,” Johanna said. “It’s a sassy song, so it’s supposed to be sassy.”

Video of Johanna’s sassy, spicy performance at Heather’s Dance in Knightdale on Saturday had been viewed online millions of times by Tuesday afternoon.

People couldn’t seem to get enough of Johanna’s don’t-mess-with-me attitude as she tapped her away across the stage in a pink tutu.

Her parents, Elissa and Carlos Colón of Raleigh, said they never imagined the video would be seen by anyone other than family and friends.

Johanna has been dancing since she was 2 and takes lessons at Heather’s Dance.

“She was just always dancing,” Elissa Colón said. “From the moment the child could walk, she would dance.”

On Tuesday, Colón fielded calls from national television programs that wanted to feature Johanna. The family planned to fly to New York City on Tuesday evening to appear on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday.

They welcome the brush with fame, even if it was completely unexpected.

Much of the family’s time is devoted to Johanna’s little brother. C.J., 3, has Hirschsprung’s disease, a condition that affects the large intestine.

Elissa Colón said her son has had more than 35 surgeries. He requires around-the-clock care, she said, so she quit her job as a teacher in 2011 to stay home with him.

The family could no longer afford to pay for Johanna’s dance lessons. But Colón worked out a deal with the studio – she would work the front desk and choreograph some numbers in exchange for free classes for her daughter.

The night of the recital, she said, she was working backstage and didn’t see all of Johanna’s performance that wowed the audience. Carlos shot the video.

“It’s nice that she’s finally getting the attention that she deserves,” Carlos said. “With C.J. being sick all the time, now it’s her turn.”

Johanna didn’t seem fazed by all the attention, although she was a little unsure how so many people were able to watch her and her fellow dancers perform.

“I’m proud of myself and my friends,” she said.

Johanna said she loves the glitz and glamour of dance, the frilly costumes and the bold makeup.

“You get to look pretty,” she said.

She spends much of her time at home dancing around, often to the Ariana Grande station on Pandora.

But when it comes to school, Johanna gets serious. She just finished first grade at Forestville Road Elementary in Knightdale.

School isn’t a place to be sassy, she said. It’s a place to be kind to others.

Johanna has big dreams for the future.

“I want to be famous,” she said. “I want to sing, and I want to make a restaurant.”

She’s already got the fame.

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Twitter: @BySarahNagem

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