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Subway dancers mark the end of an era in Irish filmmaker's documentary

Performing on the subway is no longer allowed but these talented dancers say they’ll find other ways to show the world what they’re capable of.


Source: Scott Carthy/Vimeo

MARCH OF LAST year saw the beginning of a crackdown on New York’s renowned subway car performers. By the end of the month, arrests had trebled compared to those of the previous year in its entirety as dancers were charged with acts of misdemeanour and disorderly conduct.

In July, Irish filmmaker Scott Carthy spent time with a dance crew called Waffle, which stands for ‘We are family forever entertainment’.

Waffle wanted to separate themselves “from the bunch”, from the negativity and from the image of criminality that had become associated with the ‘Litefeet’ style of dance.

They explained how the revolution of Litefeet helped bring some positivity to troubled neighbourhoods in the Bronx and in Brooklyn, how it kept young people off the streets and how it brought gangs together.

What we’re doing is a great thing and they’re trying to end it.

  1. 20-year-old Deshawn Martin said there are people who used the subway dancing as a way to escape from the gang culture and criminality in their neighbourhoods.
There was always gangs but with Litefeet, when Litefeet came around, people stopped their gangs to make dance teams. People who was [sic] once in a gang , they didn’t really hang with the gang no more, they was hanging with their dance teams and they was going to events and they was going to parties to do the dance style of Litefeet and everybody would know they was one of the best who could do it.
It was a good thing because people stopped the violence for just a few years, for just a couple of years people stopped the violence and they just wanted to dance and show Litefeet to the world.

This style of dance even brought gangs together as they left rivalries behind and showed each other moves they had learned or created.

Martin worries now that this crackdown will see young people return to the criminal lifestyles they had before, as their big passion in life and the one thing that always makes them happy has now been branded a criminal activity anyway.

This is not the end for Waffle, they’ll keep dancing.

“They’re not going to stop dancing just because they don’t have the trains anymore,” filmmaker Scott Carthy told TheJournal.ie. “They’ll find other ways to use their talent.”

Back in Brooklyn in the 70s, gangs were rampant – it was literally like a battlefield, gangs ran the streets. These hip-hop gangs came together, trying to find a new way to express themselves and there were crews that would battle each other in dance. It was a great way of having nothing and creating something out of it.

When Litefeet dancers first took to the Subway trains and started making money, other dance groups took on the style and soon carriages were full of dancers. The performers in the documentary say a criminal element was introduced by some of these groups and this ruined it for everyone. Now, they will have to find a new way to show the world their talent.

From Carthy’s documentary alone, you can see how supportive all the dancers are of one another and how encouraging they are of the children in the crew who dance.

“It’s incredible to see them getting involved at such a young age,” he said. “It’s not like dancers developing in a dance school, they learn from the streets, they learn it all from scratch.”

“People can call us dirty, people could make all these statements about is and we’re just gonna keep doing what we do because we know all those statements are false statements. We’re gonna keep moving on and Waffle is gonna blow up real soon.”

Read: This Irish director’s video will make you fall in love with NYC’s subway dancers>

VIDEO: Turning stories of addiction and trauma into a powerful dance show>

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