I'm on the A train. The doors just opened at 42nd street. Two teens and a little boy, maybe 10?, step on. They're carrying their boom box negotiating where they're going to start their show. They decide on the center of the train, right next to me.
"SHOWtime!" They holler in unison. "It's showtime." They fumble over their initial claps and stumble over their initial steps. Oh no, I think to myself. Are they gonna be broke down, bootleg break dancers?
On more than one occasion, I've seen a group of kids perform on the train and it's so bad - they're such novices - they really just need to go back home, practice, and start again.
They get it together: clap/clap clap clap. The boys clear the space and the 10 year old takes center stage. He starts with a coffee grinder and manipulates himself into a handstand. I watch in wonder at the core control and strength he has to hold and manipulate his handstand on an express train during rush hour. He stays close to the ground inverting himself with different balances on his hands and forearms.
One of the teens took the floor. He was sweaty. They must be jumping from train to train doing this routine over and over. I can't help but think of how dirty his hands and clothes must be. Everyone knows the subways are the dirtiest places in New York City.
I look up to see a man videoing the show on his cell phone. He wears skinny jeans that bare his ankles. I can't help but notice the huge Louis bag on his lap. He, like I, thinks these kids are worth watching. Neither of us put our money where our eyes are though.
The train pulls into the 34th street station. The doors open and a woman who must have exited at another end of the car reaches her hand back in the center doors to hand the other teen a few dollars.
These kids are doing what I do. They dance for money. I wonder how much they make? Wouldn't be surprised if it was more than me.
Then I think about that 10 year old. He's got skills. When he's grown, he's gonna be bad. Really bad. Who taught him? Did he learn from watching?
My 10 year-olds today pulled a coup on me. They are so whiny and unmotivated. They have very little respect for authority. There's little interest in formal dance training. Discipline is absolutely a foreign concept. They just want me to turn on the radio and let them jump around for 45 min.
Maybe I should... And go dance on the subway.