Breakdancers Hit Hard by Economy

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It’s no secret that the happiest people are those who have found a job that they truly love. Khrist Newman’s love was always breakdancing. There was one small problem though. How could he support himself doing it?

Newman is president and leader of dance group Positive Brothers, a five-member breakdancing troupe that has been performing in New York City's Times Square and Battery Park for more than 10 years. Though the group has suffered through the economic downturn, they’ve begun to tweak their money-making strategy in order to increase revenue.

“Through the rough times, it was really rough. We was making anywhere between $10 to $20 [a day] each,” Newman says. “And that was rough because it was hard to pay bills and we had to sacrifice [and] basically get what we needed. We really couldn’t get anything we wanted around that time.”

These days Positive Brothers are doing slightly better. They currently manage to draw $200 from crowds in a given day, earning $40 per person, though in their pre-recession heyday, the group was raking in $350, or $70 each. They say it’s all about the economy.

The dancers have noticed fewer foreign tourists visiting New York City. The street performers once received currency from international destinations as far as Brazil, Australia and the Cayman Islands. Today Newman and his group mainly collect American and Canadian bills, suggesting that overseas tourists are remaining home to save money. Given the weakened state of the euro, and strength of the dollar, this isn’t surprising.

The breakdance crew is revamping their business strategy in order to lure in more tips. They are doing bigger jumps, longer breakdancing solos and they are boosting audience participation.

“We get them more involved and they feel like they are a part of the show. So it makes them a little more comfortable giving us their money.”

Still, as Newman and his four companions see an increase in their tips and living standards, they know that money isn’t everything.

“We try not to focus too much on the money because the money is the downfall and the root of all evil. So we basically try to focus on our talent and just stay strong and positive that way.”

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