"Zilla March": flexing in the New York subways

Flexing, or bone breaking, is a mix of street dancing and contortionist movements mostly specific to Brooklyn. This video in particular is mesmerizing, almost ritualistic with this group of shirtless guys in gas masks all dancing together in the subway. Other riders seem to either not notice them or look on in a trance.

[Video Link] Thanks Dannel!


  1. Beautiful.  Beautiful dancers, beautiful choreography, beautiful cinematography, beautiful soundtrack, beautiful bodies.

    I have seen these guys on the Q train sans gas masks, recognize their moves and the tats, they were really cool.  My very odd adolescent son jumped up to dance with them and I cringed that they were going to get pissed.  They did not, they were so very cool about it that for the most fleeting moment, as I dropped a Jackson into the hat, I thought the world might not end in the very near future.

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. It’s great to know a bit about these people when the camera’s not on them, and I’m very happy to know that they are as impressive in person as they appear on video.

    2. PLEASE!!!!  READ my message posted below and pass it along to these young men, if you happen to encounter them, again!  It’s INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT that they get the information I posted!!!!!!  Thank you!

  2. In a happy accident of youtube surfing I found what I think to be the same dancing style in a video series with pretty good production values.  Search for “League of Unreal Dancing”. It’s done as a one on one dance battle in a ring with an MC, winner by applause or arbitrary MC decision, you tell me.

    The first one I saw was Queen Tut vs. Pumpkin.  Lovely stuff.

  3. First saw flexing during one of the audition episodes for So You Think You Can Dance.  (edit:) Not too long after that, I think those same flexers were featured prominently in an episode of The League of Extraordinary Dancers (season 2, episode 3).

    Also, I wonder if the flexibility is from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome?

  4. Awesome. 
    I love the jaded NY straphangers lack of response. 
    This is as vital as modern art gets, IMHO. Could this be seen as a comment on the perception of urban youth today [post london riots], or a wise nod to #ows and the pepper spray incidents, or  am i a wanker and this is just kids getting kicks?I think, if I was there, I would have said they were filming a sequel to ‘The Warriors’. 

  5. I have to admit, I wasn’t really feeling it – just seemed like some off-the-beat popping and contorting – until about 3:18 when they stepped off the train and started “fighting”. Right then, I felt the movements really sync with the music, and then it got really cool.

  6. This was really cool. The cinematography and music really made this video work imo. I hope this crew keeps doing stuff like this around NYC, it’s definitely new and interesting.

  7. Watching this YouTube video made me PROFOUNDLY SAD, but not for any of the reasons that most of you reading this comment can possibly imagine.  I am a 50 year old, mostly Caucasian woman, Retired RN, BSN, clinical MSW, and MAT-educated teacher, who lives in the Portland, Oregon area.  What those “contortionists” were doing are actions that I am still QUITE capable of doing, as well, because I share a common genetic disorder with them. 

    Despite the fact I weigh nearly 400# and am severely and permanently disabled (as the result of one surgeon, botching a “minor” surgical procedure, to remove a kidney stone – leaving me paralyzed on my left trunk, with a large “flank bulge” hanging off my left side, in severe/chronic pain, and on the brink of needing kidney dialysis – thus no longer able to work in any of my previous professions, nor any job whatsoever!), I can twist most of my joints into those same odd positions.  That is due to the fact, that my maternal grandmother, mother, some of my 5 siblings, and several of my nieces and nephews share a connective tissue disorder known as “Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome” http://www.ednf.org/

    It’s a VERY SERIOUS CONDITION, that impacts every connective tissue in the body.  Twisting and contorting the joints like that, will lead to the very severe, early-onset arthritis, that affects each of us who have it.  This society is so CRUEL, to people whose bodies are somehow “different” or “unusual”, that most adults won’t bother to stop and ask themselves WHY someone is able to do something that others cannot do.

    Countless PE teachers, athletic coaches, band/music/art teachers, MDs, RNs, PTs, OTs, and a whole range of other adults, witnessed every one of the members of my family (who have this genetically-transmitted condition), making these “odd” movements with our bodies, without asking themselves WHY it was possible.  My maternal grandmother was walking with crutches and using a “traveling wheelchair”, before I was even born (when she was 50).  These days, I have to use a “flexible walker” to get around, but only because of my left truncal paralysis, which makes my left leg tire easily, and “buckle”, if I become overly-fatigued.  The last major fall I had, left me with a concussion, post-concussive disorder, whiplash, and massively torn up shoulders/knees.

    Since neither my mother nor I were ever deemed “athletically competent”, despite being Mensa-level gifted in every other academic area, we never abused our joints (and avoided most “traditional athletics”), unlike the way my very physically active maternal grandmother did (and these young gentlemen are doing).  Despite the severe arthritis I have in nearly every joint in my body, I’m still able to move far better than my maternal grandmother ever could, in all the years I knew her (and she lived to age 96).

    Despite having been a VERY active, clinical RN for 25+ years, not a SINGLE health care provider I ever saw personally or professionally, EVER, asked or noticed what unusual things I could do with my joints, until I had to undergo Occupational Therapy, for an elbow nerve injury (from propping up my paralyzed torso, while lying in bed, using the phone/computer/pen, with my right hand).  That one, very bright, very alert Occupational Therapist spotted my unusual hand/wrist flexibility, when I was 48 years old.

    She knew IMMEDIATELY what she was seeing, what I had demonstrated to my friends on the playground at school, countless times, as a young girl – that I was “double jointed”.  Thankfully, she educated me that I was NOT “double jointed” at all!  What I have are joints that are “overly lax” – too flexible. 

    I CAN’T stiffen them to catch, spike, throw, run, hit, jump, or do the myriad other activities involved in most traditional PE and sports activities!  When I run, my ankles will typically twist/sprain.  When I attempt to catch or “spike” a ball, the pressure of the ball’s weight/velocity, will press my fingers/hands completely backwards!  Needless to say, it HURTS!

    What I COULD do (before becoming paralyzed), were lots of gymnastic/contortionist type activities, swimming, yoga, walking, dancing (non-ballet type), climbing trees (I was the BEST/HIGHEST tree climber of ANYONE in my area, as a child!), and bike riding.  Tragically, as a teacher, I am keenly aware that the kinds of PE/sports activities I would have been most successful at (and that would have kept my weight down better, over the years), are precisely the SAME types of PE/Sports activities that are RARELY ever available in most public schools, even all these years later! 

    While gymnastics/contortionism, some yoga positions, and some tree climbing activities probably would not have been wise for the health of my joints (as a child or as an adult), the other activities (I’m guessing) would have been safer.  Though I am NOT an expert on this subject,  I am theorizing, that swimming, walking, dancing, and bike-riding would all be safe components of any “Special Ed” PE program.  Though “Special Ed” PE programs ARE recommended by the experts who know about Elhers-Danlos Syndrome, I’ve NEVER heard of this kind of a PE program, not even for children confined to wheelchairs!

    Granted, I do live in a small and (currently) very IMPOVERISHED state, but I DO NOT believe it is FAIR, to ANY of our country’s children (who may or may not yet know that they have a genetic disorder), to FORCE them to damage their fragile bodies, by requiring “traditional” PE programs, to be exclusively taught, in either public or private schools.  From my perspective, the entire country needs to become much better informed about the following:

    1)  The myriad genetically-transmitted conditions we ALL may be carrying and, unwittingly, passing on to future generations.

    2)  How to actively locate all of the individuals who DO HAVE various genetically-transmitted conditions & providing them with appropriate health care services and genetic counseling.

    3)  How to STOP hating “obese” people and realize that prescribing “doing more and eating less” is MUCH too simplistic an approach to our “obesity epidemic”!  There are a myriad number of medications, illnesses, and genetically-transmitted conditions, in addition to eating disorders, psycho-social difficulties, and poverty issues, involved in this health care catastrophe!!!!!  Everyone, PLEASE stop JUDGING the next overweight/obese person you see!  None of us may know what all the reasons are why anyone happens to be “too heavy”, at any given point in time.  Judgment doesn’t HELP!  Knowledge does.  (http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-obesity-causes-20111219,0,6170668.story)

    4)  How to make PE/Sports activities, band/art courses, and handwriting lessons, more INCLUSIVE and fair, for everyone, regardless of ability or disability level.  I was nearly always the last person chosen for every PE and sports activity at my school.  Though I had the second highest written & performance tests in my entire high school, (as a freshman), I dropped out of band because I played the flute and my fingers kept “locking up” more and more frequently, the harder I practiced (in the classic “double-jointed-appearing” manner, that occurs in someone with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome).  There are special “rings” created to prevent this from happening, but I never knew about them. 

    PE and handwriting/calligraphy courses, were the ONLY subjects I could NEVER get “A’s” in, throughout the entire 24+ years, that I attended formal schools.  It was NOT due to a lack of TRYING!  My very arthritic fingers STILL cannot make perfect designs of ANY sort, whether for handwriting or drawing purposes.

    So, PLEASE, if someone here can locate these young gentlemen and pass along this message to them, I would be SO GRATEFUL!  I’m have an extraordinarily difficult time, educating my OWN MDs about this topic (which none of them have ever heard of and CERTAINLY don’t want to be educated about, by a mere mortal, like myself, even if I AM a member of Mensa and have clinically practiced as an RN for more than 25 years)!  Getting my own family members to take it seriously, is even harder than getting my MDs to do it! 

    The denial and lack of education are EVERYWHERE!  The more that sports coaches, PE/Art/Band teachers, parents, grandparents, health care professionals, and every person of every age, can become alerted/aware of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and the many other genetically-transmitted conditions many of us are (unwittingly) walking around with, the better off we ALL will be! 

    I would not have spent so many (unfulfilling) years trying to become a “traditional” athlete, had I known that it would be wiser to pursue physical activities that my body is designed for.  Perhaps I would be a world famous musician, had I known about the rings made for people who don’t have stiff enough finger joints.  I never would have attempted taking ballet, knowing what all of those jumps were doing to my knees. 

    It’s impossible to know what my life’s course “might have been”, had I known at a younger age, what I was going to be dealing with, every day of my life.  It would have made self-acceptance easier, for me, and I hope it will do the same, for these remarkable young men.  May they each go on to make our entire country VERY PROUD of their whole lives!    <3

    1. …not a SINGLE health care provider I ever saw personally or professionally, EVER, asked or noticed what unusual things I could do with my joints…

      I wasn’t diagnosed with ED until I was in my late 40s, and that was only because I asked my physician if he thought that I have Marfan’s.  In retrospect, it’s quite obvious what with the kaiphosis, lordosis, scoliosis, unstable sacrum,  etc. and the odd things like bleeding from my pores.

      While gymnastics/contortionism, some yoga positions, and some tree climbing activities probably would not have been wise for the health of my joints (as a child or as an adult), the other activities (I’m guessing) would have been safer.

      I refused to do most of what was requested of me in gym class and finally refused to go to class at all.  It was a fight, but I won.  Yoga is actually helpful because keeping the muscles stretched out takes stress off the joints.  What those gentlemen are doing with their shoulders will bring them a world of pain. 

      PE and handwriting/calligraphy courses, were the ONLY subjects I could NEVER get “A’s” in…

      I always got Ds in handwriting; it never occurred to me that it was related to ED.

      1. I’m curious, is it only possible that they’re doing these moves because they have this condition? It seems a little odd to me that all these people with the condition and an interest in public performance and dance found each other, though I’m sure that in NYC the sheer number of people does make it likely that enough such people exist in the area.

        1. If you watch closely, it’s really only one or two of them who do any kind of serious contortion. The rest are sort of supporting the couple guys who can really twist their arms around.

    2. Alright, now I’m a bit worried I’ve got this. I’ve got shoulders that pop right out and do all sorts of strange things. My thumbs bend backwards to my wrists. My mum’s elbows extend further than the 180 degrees most people’s do.

      However, for mum it’s just the elbows, for me just the shoulders and thumbs. However my fingers make cracking and popping sounds constantly, although I put that down the abuse they receive from working in IT (doing a fair chunk of coding), being a video-game fiend and being a bass player. I guess I should get this checked out.

      1. You should ask your doctor. If you have the (much rarer) classic ED, there are serious cardiac risks.

      2. Only a highly trained geneticist will probably be able to tell whether you have this condition or not.  Most average MDs and surgeons (in my experience), won’t even know what it is, let alone what to do to TREAT any of it!  For more information about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, there is information from the National Institutes of Health to be found here: 


        The UK apparently lumps a bunch of genetically-transmitted connective tissue disorders together and labels them “Hypermobility Syndrome”.  You can learn more from their perspective here:


        If you should happen to go see a rheumatologist, don’t be at ALL surprised if he/she labels you with “fibromyalgia”!  It’s the current “disease of the week”, within the rheumatology field!

  8. Just to temper Rainbow here, there is currently no reliable testing available for the most common forms of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (type 3 is what most people may/may not have), nor is there really any sort of treatment.

    1. I don’t recall EVER saying anything about the forms of testing currently available.  That is a subject for geneticists, of which I am not one.  While there is not clearly identifiable “medical treatments” available, there ARE certainly “lifestyle modifications” that can and I believe, SHOULD, be implemented, in order to not leave naive others living with the catastrophic outcomes that Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome can and DOES cause, every single day, all around the world!

      Nor is Ehler-Danlos Syndrome the ONLY genetically-transmitted condition with daily lifestyle and career implications.  Ignorance is not “bliss” on this topic, nor on many others.  Though the Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation has been in existence for 25 years, never ONCE, as a clinical RN, was I exposed to ANY information about this topic, though I WAS aware of Marfan Syndrome (which many medical historians believe President Lincoln may have had) and Osteogenesis Imperfecta!

      The fact that not a SINGLE one of the 15 MDs I am currently forced to deal with (thanks to the butchery of my surgeon), knows ANYTHING about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, nor is particularly interested in discussing it with me, is infuriating.  The arrogance that the majority of physicians display in this country is mind-boggling, to me!  Most of the ones I have worked with have been merely interested in the money I will bring into their wallets.  That fact does not bode well, for either me or anyone else in my very large family, who is having to deal with the realities of this genetically-transmitted condition!

    2. She’s also 400 lbs.  No offense, but I have the same thing, have done weight lifting my entire life, and as long as you have the muscle tone to stabilize your joints you’re fine.  You can’t really be lazy, but you’ll be fine.

      1. And how old are you now?  Maybe in your 20’s at most?  Wait until you are 40 – 50.  Then, you will find out just how “not ok” your joints really ARE!  Be SURE to come back and tell us all about how you’re NOT visiting all sorts of different types of MDs and other health care professionals, because your body is still “just fine”!  I doubt that’s likely to happen.

        FYI, while I am NEARLY 400# now, I have not ALWAYS been overweight or obese. Life can change VERY rapidly for each of us. You will learn that, one way or the other, as you grow older!

      2. You can’t really be lazy, but you’ll be fine.

        That’s bullshit. Maybe you’re fine with that. It doesn’t mean that it will work for everybody or that you won’t find yourself broken up in a couple of decades.

  9. The producers of this video have a youtube channel with all kinds of other awesome stuff, including tutorials in how to do some of the moves in this video:

    http://yakfilms.com (warning: redirects to autoplaying youtube channel)

  10. It never ceases to amaze me what gorgeous movement the human body is capable of… infinite variation, mood and style it seems, and how amazing that music is always changing morphing growing. I love that we dance and that sounds can capture what happens inside our minds so aptly, thank you for posting, I can’t wait to get back on the dancefloor!

  11. Particularly impressed by some of the two-man moves, but generally nice stuff.

    Y’see, that’s the problem. I’m a middle-aged suburban white geek. Yet this kind of stuff  — choreographed and technical — appeals to me far more than the “just get out on the floor and shake” kind of dancing that’s endemic to my own subculture. (At the other extreme, folkdancing and contra and such, which are also a matter of assembling patterns from known vocabularies, also work for me.)

    It’s worth noting that at least some of the moves which appear damaging are much less so than they appear — this kind of dance is, in part, a matter of creating the illusion that the body is doing something it shouldn’t be able to. On the other hand, the breakdancing culture has always had an element of  competition and can-you-top-this, and some folks have accepted pain/damage in exchange for status. On the other other hand, that last is probably true of some practitioners of ALL forms of performance and athletics. The body can do amazing things if you’re willing to push beyond the comfort zone… but discomfort exists for good reasons and you ignore it at your peril.

  12. This is very creepy, but also awesome. I would agree with @technogeekagain that part of what makes it cool is the illusion of more contortion than is actually there.
    I really dig the music, too. I wonder how they keep the rhythm/tempo while they are filming – they must have a beat playing in their ears?

  13. Hello Everyone!

    When I  posted what I did, above, about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, I was targeting my posting toward the two individuals in that group, who were making the most “contortionist-like” movements with their bodies!  I was NOT referring to the entire group!  I was SO ALARMED by what I was watching, it never occurred to me, that ANYONE would think I was talking about the entire group.

    For those of you who need/want additional information about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, I’ve learned that there is not a “general consensus”, amongst English-speaking MDs/researchers, as to how to “correctly” label this Syndrome/genetically-transmitted condition.  For people of the UK who would like more information about this topic, I would suggest going here:  http://www.hypermobility.org/diagnosis.php .  There are a number of excellent articles about EDS from the NIH here:  http://health.nih.gov/topic/EhlersDanlosSyndrome

    Articles from the Ehler-Danlos National Foundation can be found here:  https://netforum.avectra.com/temp/ClientImages/EDNF/2af067ee-56bd-4152-8181-03ba09142a07.pdf

    AND here:  http://www.ednf.org/images/stories/leaflets/soyouthinkyoumighthaveeds.pdf

    AND here:  https://netforum.avectra.com/temp/ClientImages/EDNF/663677c3-28b5-4189-9f30-5ac0c14e1985.pdf

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