On Subway Cars and Now TV, New York’s Tap-Dancing College Student

Joshua Johnson, the college student from Harlem whose tuition-paying subway-tap-dance exploits we wrote about last winter, was back in the limelight this week.

On Tuesday, he appeared on “Dancing With the Stars,” where he was featured in the “AT&T Spotlight Performance,” tapped his way thorough a hip-hop remake of “New York, New York” backed up by eight seasoned professional tappers and, as usual, brought down the house. (See video below.)

On Friday morning, Mr. Johnson was back in Altoona, Pa., where he is a junior communications major at the Penn State branch, and he reports that things have been going pretty well.

“I’ve never even been a backup dancer, but I was like the star of the production,” he said. “It was like 20 million people watching live. It was kind of crazy.”

Since Tuesday, Mr. Johnson said, “A lot of kids that are tap-dancing or want to go to Penn State are hitting me up on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram to tell me their struggles and tell me, ‘You’re making it and I want to make it too.’”

While school is hard, he said, “I’m really trying to focus and buckle down on getting my grades up. A lot of people are encouraging me, and it’s like I’m not just doing it for myself in a way. People are watching me. So I feel like I’ve really got to do this work now.”

Mr. Johnson is still raising money (donations can be made through his Web site) to pay off his tuition. Between the $35,000 he was handed on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in March and about $10,000 from individual donors, he has been able to pay off the student loans, though he still owes $3,000 for this year’s tuition.

But the subway performances that helped launch Mr. Johnson – he would come back to New York on many weekends to dance – are taking a back seat for now. He is trying to put together a show, to be shot in a theater in New York, that would showcase street performers, with him as the host.

“There are a lot of performers working in the streets or dancing in nightclubs or on the train,” he said, “and I want to create a stage, a big stage, that is going to allow all these great, talented street performers in New York to be seen.” The working name of the show, he said, is “Joshua Johnson Presents: The Come-Up.”

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