Rayquan Perez of 2Live Describes the Life of a Subway Dancer

Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 11:11 AM

Rayquan Perez is a subway performer who usually dances on the 4 and 2 lines. (Rayquan Perez)

Rayquan Perez is a 19-year-old dancer with 2Live, a group that performs on the 4 and 2 trains. He spoke to Brian about what it's like to flip and somersault through a moving subway car, and about the crackdown on dancers.

How’d he get into dancing?

His uncles used to dance with Crazy Legs and taught him and his cousins how to perform on the trains. “They wanted me to stay out of trouble and stuff, so instead of getting into trouble I started dancing.”

What’s a good day?

$100 to 150 over 3 or 4 hours of work – but he could keep going all day. Money really comes out on Fridays with tourists and events at Barclays or the stadiums.

Has anyone from the group been arrested in the latest crackdown?

Two of his cousins, both 2Live members, were arrested for dancing in a subway car – and his uncle was arrested and is still in jail for an outstanding warrant. “I never thought dancing was a crime, I thought it was a way to express yourself.”

What happens when you get arrested just for dancing?

“We have to go through the whole system.” Rayquan heard from his cousins that they got community service, but the next time it happens they could get 30 days in jail – and that bail is $5,000.

So… have they stopped dancing on the trains?

“Nah, I’m about to go dancing today,” he said. And no, he’s not afraid of the bail.

 Our Full Conversation About the NYPD Crackdown on Subway Dancers

 Does he ever get hurt, or hurt someone else?

Sometimes during practice the team does get hurt. But have they ever kicked a passenger? “Me personally? Not yet. I’m not going to say never… I’m not gonna lie, I had a team member, he was young and it was his first time. He apologized after the show and the person still donated.”

Is there a way to do the shows more safely?

They could do platform shows, but they don’t make as much money doing that. “We know how to maneuver around people. Let’s say we see somebody getting up because they’re scared – we’ll maneuver around them instead of hitting them.”

And yeah, they know the trains.

Like that big curve on the 4 train coming into 42nd street? “We know those by heart,” Perez said.  


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Comments [18]

Liza from Harlem

I love subway performers and I feel that these are the kinds of things that make it interesting to live here. It's especially great on long stretches, like the A between 59th and 125th, to have a little extra entertainment, and it's really not hard to ignore if you want to read or listen to your own music.

As long as they are not hurting anyone, it's a shame to spend the time & money policing these people.

OK, so you're not crazy about this loud music right now, but is it worth calling the police? Is it worth this person having jail time?

Aug. 05 2014 11:16 AM
Dee from NY

What an insult. Put him and his ilk on the front line anywhere and put an end to it, simple and done.

Disgusting and sad. Listen to how is pronounces "yeah", like it's real, real cute (not),

Aug. 02 2014 07:23 PM

I can't believe how conservative New York has become, I lived in NYC/Brooklyn for 20 years before moving to SF a few years ago. I always enjoyed the dancers and the energy and spirit they bring to the space around them. It's one of many qualities that (used to) make New York unique. It's the perception of danger, fear, that creates the danger. Smells like racism to me.

Aug. 02 2014 03:33 AM
Rebeca from Chelsea

They shouldn't do this on crowded trains and the boom box is never prmitted in a train.

Aug. 01 2014 04:33 PM
Brian from Brooklyn

This program felt like Brian trying to coax a group hug around performances that the majority of his listeners find at best annoying and at worst a risk. I especially wish he hadn't indulged this disingenuous language about "outlawing dancing," when what we are talking about is men leaping, kicking, spinning, flipping in a crowded, confined, moving, shaking, public compartment that for many is the only option for getting around town.

Aug. 01 2014 11:19 AM
Lee Ann from NJ

Just -- too loud. Why should I have to hear it?

Aug. 01 2014 11:15 AM
Scott S from Astoria

I'm so sick and tired of this being turned into either a racial issue or that those who don't appreciate the "dancers" and music are the bad guys. This is about respect, space and comfort.

Am I allowed to go to work or come home without people screaming "Showtime" at me and blasting music. Maybe I want to read a book or listen to my own music ( politely without inflicting it on everyone around me ) Maybe I don't appreciate "dance" where feet are flying inches from my face. Why should I have to move to make room for those who are both knowingly breaking the law ( and don't care) Maybe the most comfortable space on my train ride ( which I pay for) is standing, holding a pole and reading.

These dancers and beggars are breaking the law, and there are reasons for that law, and these laws were voted on by the people and their representatives.

If these kids want to dance for money...there are places like parks where they can do so.

Aug. 01 2014 11:08 AM

Busking can and should be regulated when public safety or nuisance are the issue.

What is the right to the subway? A limited license? Nick says it's a semi-public space. I believe it's a designated public forum for 1st Amendment speech analysis, per the New York Magazine and "savage man" advertising cases.

The subway has close confines and these kinds of acrobatics could easily put the dancers or viewers at risk. Unlike busking and dancing in parks or on sidewalks, here the audience may be unwilling. You cannot always get away - or not very far - and nor should you be expected to do so.

I give the dancers credit for rather inventive dance moves and a creative way to supplement their income. But a full subway is both their prime opportunity and the greatest risk. For that matter, some musicians create crowds that block passageways in the subways. That could be dangerous too, but mostly it's frustrating.

Aug. 01 2014 10:23 AM
Pat from Brooklyn

I appreciate the talent they have, but a train is no place for dancing and playing loud music. I hope the cops arrest every one of these guys so they get the message. Dance on a platform or on the sidewalk somewhere.

Aug. 01 2014 10:15 AM

I love the dancers and have never been scared of them - even when I broke my wrist snowboarding and had to have surgery to put a plate over the bone.

I was more scared of the big white men and actually big old ladies who shove me or don't see me because I'm only five feet tall. I've had men in suits deliberately smash me against the pole - repeatedly. I must admit after politely asking one of these big white suited men to stop smashing me against the pole several times that I did once resort to stomping on his foot with my heels.

I've also had big old ladies push me out of the way to the point of almost knocking me over. I saw one big old woman who shoved herself on the train and then proceed to stretch out her arms as wide as possible and deliberately elbow a younger smaller woman in the face. She actually had the nerve to complain about the young woman who did her best to get out of her way which was hard because she spread herself out as wide as she possibly could.

Then there are the space eaters - men who spread their legs as wide as possible and women who put their purse next to them on a crowded train and look annoyed when you ask them to move their stuff.

At least the subway dancers bring a smile to my face in the jungle of squeezing myself into space on the train. By the way - I have taken up the "gentle art" of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The concepts of finding "space" to neutralize your opponent are actually quite useful on the train.

Aug. 01 2014 10:12 AM


Aug. 01 2014 08:07 AM
Nick from Bushwick

I have multiple problems with these guys.

1) The level they play the music at is damaging to your hearing if you're unlucky enough to be near the speakers.

2) At least a few of the dancers on the L wear loose fitting shorts and thrust their junk in girls faces.

3) The issue of it being a public space as mentioned by JamesK is incorrect. The train is NOT a public space. It is a Semi-public area requiring paid admission and adherence to the rules established by the company running the space. One of said rules places a restriction on things like performance, panhandling, and the like.

4) I've seen tons of being get kicked, have things broken, and be harassed/threatened for asking the dancers to go away.

Some of them are really nice and good dancers but, as a whole, I wish they'd do more to stop them, the smelly homeless people, the "war veterans," the people using drugged and unconscious babies to illicit sympathy, and the lying hipsters on the J/M, some of whom claim to be homeless while living in my building where the lowest rent is $1700/month.

Jul. 31 2014 08:28 PM

I am not a fan. There's the obvious safety issue, and then there's the space issue, especially when they force a crowded train to clear a spot for them. Those two factors put them a level above your garden variety mariachi band or a cappella group. But should they be charged with a crime by the police? No, that's absurd.

Jul. 31 2014 07:56 PM
Alex from NYC

I love the subway dancers. They're nearly all super talented and I like what they do - and I ride the subway in NYC every day. There are a lot of people who get in my way, act rude, and bring me down on the subway. They're not the dancers.

Jul. 31 2014 05:10 PM
James from Brooklyn

I didn't really mind the dancers until I broke my ankle...and then broke my collarbone. (It hasn't been a good year.) I started to notice all the other people in NYC with disabilities, as well as seniors who struggle just to get around. When you are injured, it's already difficult enough just riding the lurching subway...having people flying through the air next to you on the subway is absolutely terrifying. It's a safety issue, pure and simple. I have to say I also don't like his attitude of saying that he hasn't hurt someone "yet"; if he should happen to injure you on the train, who do you think will be covering your medical bills? You will.

Jul. 31 2014 04:56 PM

I've had too many feet fly within inches of my face on the trains while having to suffer the obnoxiously loud music. The previous comment that implies the only other alternative for these guys is aggravated robbery is both offensive and condescending.

Jul. 31 2014 03:58 PM
JamesK from NYC

SO your issue is about personal space, which I agree. However you are in public and public space is "free" I don't mind the dancers, the singers or really mind the beggers. What does bother me is the non stop corporate advertising everywhere pushing that garbage into my eyes everywhere I look.

Would you rather have these kids dancing around you or surrounding you with weapons as they take your personal belongings? Yeah I would take the dancing as well.

Jul. 31 2014 01:16 PM
Lois` from Forest Hills NY

My issue with the subway entertainers is about my space. I pay to see performances, whether at museums or theater. When my morning is interrupted by singers (older doo-woppers are great), musicians (mostly very good), religious screamers (not so good), my space is being invaded. I didn't ask for any of this and I don't want it. As for the dancers, they scare the hell out of me! And I shouldn't have to worry about my feet getting stepped on when they're where they should be and the dancers are not.
Why doesn't some dance group take them under their wing and get them involved in a better performance space? Someone like Jacques D'Amboise or Savion Glover? I don't object to them trying to earn a 'living' but earn it from those who care to see them voluntarily and would pay to see them.
Just stay out of my space and let me read and nap on my morning trip to work.
Thanks for the opportunity to voice my opinion.

Jul. 31 2014 12:39 PM

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