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Dance Rebels, It's Showtime!

A few weeks ago I happened upon a Facebook thread on the subject of “who are today’s “dance rebels”?". The question made me cringe and feel itchy for reasons I couldn’t articulate, but I didn’t have the willpower to look away. As I scrolled through the 90-some responses, I saw people nominating themselves(!) as well as their friends and colleagues. These nominations provoked others to express their discontent with “dance darlings”, white men, colonial capitalism, and people who nominate themselves as dance rebels. The whole affair impressed me as a mini-anthology of the least lovable qualities of both social media and contemporary dance.

In the under-represented category of “good sense” there were a few responders pleading for the abolishment of such categories, pointing out that we all influence each other as we reassemble and synthesize the work of those who came before. And then there was the one nomination I could really agree with: for “the guys in the subway”.

If you ride the New York City subway regularly you will see, a few times a week, groups of 2-4 young people (almost always minorities) get on and announce that “it’s showtime”. Once the train is in motion, what follows is 3-4 minutes of virtuosic, sometimes gorgeous dancing: pole-twirling, cap-tossing, acrobatics, stuff I don’t have any names for, stuff that happens too fast for my trained eye to understand.

Photo: Victor Blue for the New York Times