Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Showtime on the Subway

T Dancer
Photo credit: Bart Everts
There are few things that will strike fear (or anger) in the heart of the New York City subway rider than the word, "Showtime."

Those of you who know what I'm talking about have just shuddered. For the rest of you, here's how it goes down.

Two to five young men get on the train together, and one announces, "Showtime, showtime. What time is it?" and the others respond, "Showtime!" One of them may ask people to move out of the way because, "we're going to do a show." Then one of them turns on the most obnoxiously loud boom box you've heard since the last time.

And then the dancing begins. And by dancing, I mean stunts with a little break dancing thrown in. Back when this nonsense first started, there was just one dance crew that did it - one older boy and his two younger brothers. The younger ones did the worm and a trick where they formed a human wheel and rolled down the filthy subway floor. I'm surprised I didn't catch hepatitis just from watching them.

Nowadays, there are plenty of dance crews, and it's all about the pole work. Hanging off the poles, right in someone's face as they try to ignore the dancers, usually. I keep waiting for one of them do this right in front of me, so I can flip them off.

When they're done, they go around passing the hat, often declaring how they're doing this to stay out of trouble and saying how at least they're not breaking the law. Which is total bullshit because dancing and panhandling on the subway is illegal and they could get arrested for it.

I don't know what's worse - the loud music that hurts the ears and head, the danger of getting kicked in the head or knee, or the people who are actually amused and impressed by this.

On our way home Friday night, HA had a team of three in the subway car with us, while there was a solo act in the very next car. We thought that maybe they were together, but no. The solo guy came into our car and started talking shop with the other guys, and it was clear that they they weren't together.

Solo guy may be the only subway dancer in the city who's "afraid" (his word) to do back flips on the subway because he might kick someone. Bless his heart.

We also learned that he made $2 in the next car, which he didn't seem to think was much. One of the guys from the group broke off and went into that car, and after the next stop, actually started a solo routine of his own. After most of the people in there had just seen a dancer. 

The fucking nerve.

For a moment, I thought solo guy was going to start his act in our car, but no. He packed up his things, stayed on a few stops and went home.

This really has to stop. There has got to be someplace in the city where young men can dance and get paid for it by easily impressed white people without harassing people who don't want to be bothered. It's almost enough to make me miss that fascist Rudy Giuliani. Almost.


  1. Spot on Jen! I got kicked a few months ago and maaaaannnnnn I was pissed. You should do a follow up on the equally annoying roving candy stores selling their crap "to pay for college" or "just to do something positive to stay out of trouble." Isn't it weird they all say and sell EXACTLY the same thing??

    1. And they all have the same candy. Why is there a black market in Welch's fruit snacks and peanut M&Ms?

  2. It probably sucks to live in a place that attracts easily impressed tourists. I'm glad that the only thing in my neck of the woods is the only battle that George Washington eveer lost. No one wants to see that :-)

    1. What kills me is that some of the impressed people aren't tourists. The dancers stay on the trains as they go into Brooklyn and it's always some white woman in her 50s or 60s on her way home from work who's impressed with them. I suspect she's the relentlessly optimistic woman in the office who everyone hates even though she's so nice.

  3. I had heard of this, but assumed it was wildly exaggerated, or at the very least made up of whole cloth. So this is a real thing? Tomorrow I take my first subway ride in about three years, and I'm only getting the real deal on this now?

    1. It's a trade off. You have to deal with loads of snow, and we have showtime. But not even knowing about showtime? I'm so jealous.

  4. I actually haven't seen this on the Q train as much lately! But as for your suggestion of a non-subway dancing place... there is one! In the summer there's a regularly Showtime group dancing throughout the day in Battery Park. The tourists eat this shit up! I can't even think how much money those kids make in a day in the summer. I'm sure there's lots of other spots in parks, too. Just less do-able in the winter time...


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