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Festival at Mount Si | Grand Marshal Jonah Duvall, 12, is more than just a good dancer
At 12, Jonah Duvall is likely the youngest person ever to ride as a parade grand marshal in North Bend.
But his face, and his budding dance moves, have probably also been seen by more people than any prior Festival at Mount Si honoree.
Duvall, who was chosen for his role in the community as a local dancer, thespian and all-around good kid, logged nearly 4 million views this summer after a video of him dancing at a Seattle Mariners’ game went viral on the Internet.
From there, Duvall made an early-morning appearance on NBC’s Today Show in New York City July 23, performing his Moonwalk moves in a split screen with his M’s performance.
Still, this incoming seventh grader at Snoqualmie Middle School hasn’t let all the instant fame go to his head.
“I just forget about this stuff and start over,” he says. “I think these are really cool opportunities for me. But then it starts becoming a little much. It’s still fun.”
That said, Jonah figures he’s at least among the top-five hip hop dancers at SMS.
“There are a lot of dancers in my school,” he said.
Duvall studies dance moves, from hip-hop to ballet, at IGNITE Dance studio in North Bend.
His live career got a kick-start during a family outing last year in Mexico. Duvall was befriended by a group of young street performers, and wound up dancing onstage with them at a local restaurant in Playa del Carmen.
Dancing hasn’t always been his thing. He plays All-Star baseball, and football and basketball for his school.
“I always really wanted to be a sports player,” Jonah said. “But when I see someone dancing, that’s when I want to dance.”
He likes pop music. Right now, Jonah’s favorite artist is Bon Jovi, and he happens to love the Beatles. He likes hip-hop music, but is limited in what he can listen to, as he’s still not old enough for PG-13 movies.
He also plays drums and piano, and is an actor: he played Tiny Tim at a recent Valley Center Stage production, and also appeared in a Major League Baseball commercial. That spot will probably never air, as the athletes he appeared with were shortly traded away.
Jonah downplays his acting, but mom Danielle doesn’t.
“I would say you’re a very good actor,” she said.
“I’m even more happy to have Jonah in the parade,” said Tina Brandon, parade director. “One of the most exciting things about being involved with the theater is being able to nurture young talent, and the Festival tries to promote local talent as well.”
Right now, Jonah’s focus is firmly on his dancin’ feet.
“When you’re a kid, and you try really hard to do a little bit of everything, you end up having to choose,” Danielle said.
She was amazed by how quickly the video of Jonah’s robotic dance moves took off. From 600 in the first hour or so, it blossomed to two million in a few days.
The video of Jonah has gotten some 20,000 ‘likes’ on the Internet, and maybe 400 ‘dislikes.’
Danielle gets a little defensive when she sees some of the negative comments. One person suggested he plays too much “Michael Jackson Wii”—Danielle says he’s never played a dancing video game—and that he should be focusing more on doing good for the community.
“Jonah gets good grades, plays two instruments, dances, he’s a church kid, a good boy,” Danielle said. “That’s when Mommy starts to go, ‘You have no idea what you are saying.’”
Thinking about his future, Jonah wants to keep studying dance until his late teens, and then go to college. His favorite subject right now is history.
“School is definitely worth it,” he said.
He’s also breaking into new ground at IGNITE, studying ballet as well as breakdancing.
Danielle figured that when his fellow baseball players learned he was doing ballet, they’d never let him live it down. Not so.
“They think it’s great,” she said. “A lot of them want to dance with him.”
• You can see a video of Jonah dancing at a Seattle Mariners' game at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgiSa0OUcGA