On the subway it’s forbidden but breakdancing has been part of New York life for decades. Now, visitors can see top performers in the streets and parks, for free
Commuters on the New York subway are accustomed to the sight of lone breakdancers bursting into the carriage to flip down the aisle or swing from the polls. On any given week, it is estimated that hundreds of performers strut their stuff in the city’s tunnels. Though the most talented can earn a living and a sizeable social media following, they risk arrest on a daily basis in order to practise their art. Crackdowns have landed more than a few in jail, including some with no other criminal record.
Enter It’s Showtime NYC, a programme that recruits top talent by offering them the chance to stop dodging the cops and take their act above ground and above board. After breakdancing legally in public spaces from Brooklyn to the Bronx, many members of the roughly 30-person troupe have gone on to snag larger gigs, including on Broadway and television – or have taken on students on the side. Dancers tend to be self-taught but are deeply aware of the history of this decades-old tradition and its evolution across the five boroughs.