I met up with Jesse and the rest of the band on the poet’s walk in Central Park at noon just off of 68th St. on the east side. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, in the 80s with the sun pouring down; nice and dry with the occasional breeze.
Evita Arce and Nathan Bugh arrived about halfway through the second tune, set their stuff down and Evita and I started dancing and a crowd of teenagers immediately gathered to watch. They were probably on a school trip to the MET or something but it was great. A couple of them even got out and danced with us for a few bars. Cameras were out everywhere and it was a fun mid-tempo tune to jam out to. The crowd was so large that Jesse asked them to pull in tighter so that people could still get past. Unfortunately, being mostly kids that crowd didn’t leave much of a tip as they wandered off down the path.
This was my first time out busking with Tin Pan and it was such a great experience. Evita had some advice on how to manage the endurance aspect of dancing for long gigs on the street; sitting out the first chorus, sitting out when someone is singing, etc. It also helped that Nathan was there and we traded off dancing solo, partnered with Evita and taking a song off here and there.
Nathan and I did a really tight solo number together based off of the shim sham where we spotlighted on breaks and varied it up a bit. It was such a good feeling to be out there performing with live music behind us and an interested crowd. Nathan is exceptionally creative and well-rounded in his solo jazz and I can’t wait to work with him more.
This was my first performance-for-money type gig and it definitely got me thinking about how I held myself as a performer (and less about what I was thinking as a dancer). It is different to be in front of a crowd of non-dancers and be performing rather than just social dancing. The way you present and interact with a crowd of people who don’t know you and don’t understand the dance puts a different sort of pressure on you. It forced me to simplify my movement and I constantly reminded myself that my dancing wasn’t just part of a social event (say as it can be at Banjo Jims) but a performance. The audience is just as much a part of the performance as the band and the dancers and can’t be an afterthought.
It was a wonderful gig and definitely a learning experience. I can’t wait to be out busking with Tin Pan again.
Have you busked? What was it like for you? Let me know. Comment.