Last fall, Michael Johnson traded one love, basketball, for another: dance.
“I decided that dancing was my passion,” the soft-spoken Spring Valley senior says. “I still play basketball, but I love to dance.”
Johnson is now enrolled in several dance classes (ballet and jazz) at Suffern’s Dance Loft. And can move to his heart’s delight as Ren McCormack in “Footloose” this weekend.
In the musical, based on the 1984 Kevin Bacon film, Ren and his single mom move to the tiny town of Bomont, where an accident has killed teens who had been drinking and partying. Town leaders, led by the headstrong Rev. Shaw Moore, decide to outlaw dancing as the root cause of the problem. Ren butts heads with the preacher, while kindling a relationship with the reverend’s equally headstrong daughter, Ariel.
Johnson says he can really relate to Ren.
“I dance just to blow off steam,” he says. “And my mom’s a single parent, so there’s that. The only thing different is probably the love part of it because that’s not my type of situation.”
Dancers typically refine their movements by watching themselves in floor-to-ceiling mirrors.
When he was a freshman, word got around that Johnson could dance. Not having a mirror, a friend led him across Route 59 from the school, to a strip mall where the store next to the 7-Eleven was vacant.
There, in the reflection of the empty storefront windows, a friend named Hervé helped Johnson to make his hip-hop moves stronger.
Soon, he and friends were dancing informally and he came to the attention of Spring Valley’s dance teacher, Stacey Tirro, who vowed to get Johnson into her class.
“She said, ‘I’m gonna get you,’” he recalls with a smile.
She got him.
“Footloose,” Spring Valley High School, 7:30 p.m., March 29, 30, 31; $10, $5 students and seniors in advance; $15 at the door. 845-577-6544.
Photo by Peter D. Kramer: Michael Johnson takes a break from rehearsals for “Footloose.”