Subway Ballet

BB contributor Mark Dery points us to a lovely New York Time video and article about "Subway Ballet." Mark says:

Like breakdancing, parkour, urban climbing, and Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between the World Trade Towers, this is my idea of the inspired wedding of art, sport, and what Hakim Bey called "temporary autonomous zones"---brief-lived pockets of anarcho-carnivalesque resistance to…call it what you will: the daily grind, the status quo, the "unitary urbanism" imposed on city life by capitalism.
Subway Ballet


  1. Ugh. Nothing incites more fear in a New Yorker than three teenagers walking onto a crowded train yelling “SHOWTIME FOLKS, SHOWTIME”.

    Yeah, it’s ‘beautiful’ in slowmotion, but in real life, it’s terrifying.

  2. I wouldn’t say “terrifying” but christ it’s annoying!  One of those little ballerinas once kicked my book out of my hands.  He was apologetic and retrieved it for me but gave me a look like my presence on the train alone was ruining his routine.  The day the mariachis swing from the poles is the day I pedal to work in the rain and snow.  

  3. I agree with many of the other comments.  I see this at least once a week and sometimes as much as three or four times in a single day.  It’s incredibly annoying to be blasted with loud music in an enclosed space, especially if you’re trying to read a book.  It looks great in slow-mo, but this is not what the reality is like.  I have started to refer to the Q train as the Showtime train.  

  4. There isn’t a single thing on the subway I hate more than the Showtime Dancers. I’ll take my stodgy ol’ wonder-less status grind or whatever if it means I can avoid catching a shoe to the face (again). I’d rather get on a busted AC car with a person actively shitting themselves than ride thru a long tunnel with these kids. But why choose, especially with only five years of NYC living under my belt? I’m sure I’ll eventually do both.

    1. I thought it was weird how NYT made it into a classic European dance before publishing.  Was it some sort of outdated 1960’s declaration “hey- black culture is high culture, too!” or was it like ‘this is the Times, we can’t just post black people dancing without overlaying something of our values” or was it totally innocent, the way ballet usually comes to mind when watching pole dancing?   Writer/Filmer of the note said “As I zoomed in, I noticed that these self-taught artists are not just part of an underground subculture; their graceful moves also evoke a classical ballet”.  Not ‘just’ . . .

  5. Sure beats the “I’m just trying to get money for a hostel” chaps you regularly get on the tube in London. To be fair, though, it’d be a pretty rare tube where there’s enough space for people to engage in pole dancing without injuring bystanders.

    Oh, BTW, wasn’t showing off your body for money, even in artistic/athletic ways, considered “objectifying” on BB? No disrespect to their skill, but what would be the BB reaction if girls were showing their midriffs this way?

    1. I believe that we think that both men and women should be able to choose what part of their torsos they care to display.

  6. These guys really are the worst. They hold their audiences captive, perform their sub par & dangerous routines and then demand money for interrupting your (hopefully) peaceful commute. It has to be the tourists giving them money because I can’t imagine any New Yorkers actually enjoying this kind of racket after a day at the office. I can’t stand it personally and i’m only 30 and I love hip-hop and break dancing.

    I expect that i’ll be one of those guys who flips out and cusses them off the train one day. Hopefully they won’t attack me and steal my iPhone, which seems to be their new encore…

  7. They might make more money taking their act to Adult Entertainment (strip) clubs.

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