Must the Show Go On?

When you’re riding the subway to work, which words do you find most ominous? “Slight delay?” “Sick passenger?”

How about “It’s showtime?”

I recently encountered a dance group while riding the A train downtown. After the five wiry teens proclaimed “It’s showtime, ladies and gentleman!”, the music was cranked up and the passengers in the way cleared out. When a man refused to give up his seat, one of the crew stood over him and said “How about showing us some respect?” The man got up.

During the performance, I gazed around at my fellow passengers. Some buried their heads in their newspapers and electronic devices. Others looked up at the performers with a frozen grin. You know, the “if-I-smile-at-you-guys-maybe-you-won’t-kick-me-in-the-face” look?

The dancers had some talent. But do you really want blasting music and somersaulting teens on your commute? Do you crave seeing someone twerk on your way to work?

After they finished, there was enthusiastic clapping– by them. They went around collecting money (mostly from tourists) and moved on.

When they left, I asked the gray-haired woman seated beside me what she thought. “They were certainly limber, but I was afraid they were going to bang into me,” she said. “Also, one of the dancer’s pants were so far down his tush was in my face.”

I hear you, grandma. Yes, they had some moves, but shouldn’t street performers strut their stuff somewhere else? Say, I don’t know, the street?

To paraphrase Oliver Wendell Holmes, your right to swing your feet ends where the tip of my nose begins. When will the city crack down on this? After one of these reckless dancers kicks someone who works in the mayor’s office in the head?

To those who say it’s part of NYC living, that if you want peace and quiet move to Kansas, I agree. But there’s a difference between choosing to stop and watch your choice of street performers and having it imposed on you while trapped underground.

Whatever you think of these dancers, the subways don’t belong to them, anymore than to the bellowing preachers or parade of panhandlers who try to shake us down. It’s public transportation, and it’s obligation is to its riders__period.

Respect them? How about respecting us?

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5 Responses to Must the Show Go On?

  1. I totally agree. A few weeks ago I found myself sitting on a train exactly where the young guys wanted to strut, jump and swing from the poles. They didn’t ask anyone to leave, but if you didn’t you risked having your teeth knocked out. I stuck it out for awhile because moving wouldn’t be easy. I finally did move, but my arms were loaded, there were no empty seats and I’m not exactly a spring chicken. Grrrrr!

  2. Emma says:

    I’ve been living in New York for almost twenty years, and its funny because I am from Kansas. It’s interesting because these guys, these “street dancers”, I’ve watch them perform on the train, on the streets and even I think in the Staten Island ferry terminal. I even remember when they added the white kid. He seems to be the leader now. I remember how they started out being a couple of black kids to these now young men who have become a icon, okay at least for me. They change dancers every now and again, but for the most part they at least two of them are the original members.
    I have never seem then in all this time, be disrespectful to any passenger. I never heard them cuss, or throw fits or say anything negative to other passengers. They dance, clap, (and yes, many time its just them clapping) but they say thank you. Now they don’t know me from Dorothy but I know them…okay, I don’t know them from the tin man, but they have been a part of my New York experience these last few years and to be honest sometimes I am surprise to see them still dancing.

    Now, I said all that to say this. These kids/young men kick it up on the A train and you write a blog and a column…you’re good! But where were you when they were on the 4 train, cause that’s where I encountered them for say over the last ten or so years. They have been doing this “Train dancing”for quite sometime. I’ve never heard anything negative about them, or read anything negative about them-until now. The playwright, has an opinion about creativity, go figure.

    This is my opinion, maybe they asked a passenger to move because, as I remember, the A Train seating is a bit different from that of the 4 train. How about maybe the “kid” asked him to move only because he knew that seat would not be safe for him (the passenger). I think this is a matter of interpretation.

    I agree that these are not “kids” anymore, and do need to take up a new hobby, maybe get financial aid and go to school to get degrees in dance. Maybe the next time I see them I will tell them this. Hey Young man, go dance…just not on the train. Go to college, get a degree in dance. Then the playwright can blog about how he watches you perform on Broadway. By the way the dancers are also riders, they do pay a fare.

  3. Carol White says:

    Call 911 and have those fools arrested at the next stop!

  4. David Stewart says:

    Quick question Mr. Vogel.. If all dancers were to leave the city would New York City still be New York City?

  5. Barbara Linton says:

    I ride the E train and the new E trains have bars on the ceilings where these dancers hang from in addition to the poles. They whiz by you and I pray that they don’t crash into passengers. One day (if not already) someone will get badly hurt.

    Several months ago I wrote to the MTA complaining and simply got a bland answer that they have police on the trains. While there are countless announcements about terrorism, etc., I have never heard an announcement about NOT giving money to these people. Thanks for bringing some light to this issue.

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