Vogel: Don't force riders to watch you dance

mta subway

mta subway (Credit: Getty)

Mike Vogel

Mike Vogel Mike Vogel

Mike Vogel grew up in Brooklyn and is a lifetime

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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 on a downtown A train. Five wiry teens proclaimed, "It's showtime, ladies and gentlemen!" Then music was cranked up and the passengers in the way cleared out. When a man refused to vacate his seat, one of the crew stood over him and said, "How about showing us some respect?" The man got up.

During the performance, some of my fellow riders 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.

The dancers had 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 street performers and having performances imposed on you while trapped underground.

The subway system doesn't belong to the dancers, any more than to the bellowing subway preachers or the parade of panhandlers who try to shake us down. It's public transportation, and its obligation is to riders.

Respect the dancers? How about respecting us?

Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.

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