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MTA Shuts Down Dance Group's Planned Subway Performance, Organizer Says

By Heather Holland | February 25, 2014 7:08am
Shakedown Dance Collective
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YouTube/Shakedown Dance Collective

CHINATOWN — The MTA has struck down a downtown dance group's planned performance before it was set to hit the subway system — saying the guerrilla event is not allowed, according to the organizer.

The amateur group Shakedown Dance Collective was planning to perform a three- to four-minute-routine to the Tom Waits song “Step Right Up" on Lower Manhattan subway trains and platforms on March 3, but those plans were scrapped after co-director Jamie Benson received a call from the MTA last week, he said.

“They called me out of the blue,” Benson said. “They were trying not to be harsh about it, but they basically said to cease and desist your invasion of the subway system.

“We’ll still have the performance," Benson added. "We just won’t go in the subway system.”

Benson said the MTA cited insurance and liability issues as the reason for barring the event.

The MTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The dance troupe, a group of men and women ages 22 to 70, rehearsed for more than a month to perform their routine at various subway stations. They had already gathered the costumes and props for the show, said Benson, who founded the collective a year ago with Deborah Lohse.

The plan was for the dancers to play characters such as con artists and street vendors while dancing to the Waits song, but now they're going to have to take the show elsewhere, said Benson, whose group typically meets once a week for two hours at Chrystie Ballet Academy, at 55 Chrystie St.

The collective now plans to keep their performance site a secret until the day of the event, when they'll post it on their Facebook page, he said.

“In a way it’s kind of flattering that we were on [the MTA’s] radar enough for them to want to shake us down — pun intended,” Benson said.