Creating rhythm for the city

Making contemporary art in a classical and grandiose setting, these two dancers take over the trains for a bit. Photo: Denise Kopyciok

For Vladimir Evil Face and Boris Powerbo, both 25 and dancers, the subway is the place to overcome their fears.“Dancing in such an enclosed public space with people surrounding you is an upgrade for control for your head. Fear goes away,” Vladimir says. Mind over matter.“And when you stop being afraid in such a small space with people … it’s a freedom to do whatever you want, and not be reserved,” Boris adds.

Most of the time, commuters look up from their mobile phones or whatever it is they are reading to watch the performance. It may also be a way to break away from the stern-faced Russian stereotype by inciting wonder on their faces. “Most of them cheer up, start watching, like, ‘Wow cool!’. When you start doing the bone breaking dance, some people are just like ‘WHAT’. They turn around and look. ‘How does one do that? How does he manage to do it with his joints?’” says Vladimir.

Vladimir Evil Face and Boris Powerbo talk about why they chose the subway to earn their keep.
Source: Fann Sim

“Sometimes a train cart is packed and you can blow it up with an ovation. People put away their phones and though they might not give anything, they start clapping. On some level, it’s more satisfying than getting a killing especially when you’re tired,” Boris adds.

Performers usually congregate in three stations at the center of St. Petersburg: Gostiny Dvor, Mayakovskaya and Ploshchad Alexandra Nevskogo. They bump into each other and they start talking, and sometimes they collaborate.

In a short buffer period waiting for the next train to arrive, the two dancers manage to chat up a guitar and percussion duo, Viktor and Denis. “Sometimes you get tired of your own music, and you want something live. It’s a lot more pleasant to dance to live music because those are not our battered tunes. Real live music and the beat of the drum, it really energizes us,” Vladimir says.

Gostiny Dvor, Mayakovskaya and Ploschad Aleksandra Nevskogo are stations along the Green Line. These stations are located in Petersburg center and are close to many tourist sites. All three are interchange stations for commuters to switch to the Blue Line, the Red Line and the Orange Line respectively. Despite them being interchange stations, the stations are named differently on each line. For example, Gostiny Dvor (Green Line) shares its station space with Nevsky Prospekt (Blue Line) while having a different platform. Even though they are considered two separate stations, the two are connected underground and share the location. Tourists or newcomers to St. Petersburg might find this confusing at first but they are pretty easy to navigate.

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