How to sidewalk dance

When pedestrians keep stepping in the way

Walking down the sidewalk, you notice a person coming directly toward you. As you near each other, you realize you’re going to collide.

You step to the right.

The other person steps to the left.

Now you’re in each other’s way — again. Then you shift to the left and she moves right and you’re in a standoff. After moving back and forth, you finally stop and let her pass.

This phenomenon, a sidewalk dance of sorts, seems to happen all the time.

Why does it always seem like we step in one another's way when we are trying to avoid collisions on the sidewalk? Getty Images stock

Why are people always stumbling into one another’s path?

“It is definitely something that everyone has experienced,” Brett Fajen, professor of cognitive science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, told TODAY. “For pedestrian behavior, the rules are implicit. It is unlike driving where there are explicit rules that people are supposed to know and follow.

Social norms determine pedestrian behavior, which breeds misunderstandings (er, missteps). In cultures where personal space isn’t as important, people might walk closer to someone before swerving out of the way. In the U.S., people want loads of personal space and that influences how we stroll down the sidewalk.

“We tend to avoid collisions with other people by giving them a larger berth,” said Fajen. “We give people more personal space than we would a telephone pole or an inanimate object.”

How Americans drive also influences how they navigate sidewalks: In the U.S., people walk on the right and pass on the left, just like driving, but this differs in the United Kingdom, for example.

While the unspoken rules of social behavior dictate walking, there’s a more pressing reason why people perform sidewalk dance: We don’t want to get hurt.

“We all face the same problems: We are trying to get to a location and not run into anything,” William Warren, a professor in the department of cognitive, linguistics and psychological sciences at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, told TODAY. “There is a pretty high cost to running into somebody. From a very young age we adopt strategies to avoid a collision.”

How do we avoid the sidewalk shuffle?

Avoiding bumping into something or someone isn’t straightforward. Warren tried recreating these conditions in a lab and couldn’t replicate it. The experts suspect that during these sidewalk encounters we try to correct our direction subconsciously and end up mirroring each other.

“Once in a while, by chance, we both move in the same direction,” Warren said. “It takes us a while to adjust and if by chance we both go the opposite direction we are locked in this oscillation.”

This happens because of a lag in response time. Pedestrians see that they’re going to bump into someone, but it takes a beat to change directions. In that moment, the other person tries adjusting, too, but he doesn’t understand where the other is going. This causes people to step in the same direction.

“We only have intermittent opportunities to change our direction,” Fajen said. “If you side step to your right and I side step to my left, I will see it and I won’t be able to do something right away.”

While the experts don’t think people can always avoid sidewalk dancing, they agree that understanding how people act in crowds can increase safety.

“There are a number of famous examples of people getting crushed at rock concerts or in large crowds. If you put thousands of people together and see how they behave, we would avoid those sorts of disasters,” Warren said. “Walking is something we are doing every day for hours and we take it for granted.”

Sidewalk decal sets impromptu dance parties in motion

Improv Everywhere is at it again!

For our latest mission, we surprised random people with an unexpected dance party on the streets of New York. We placed a decal (designed in the style of the ubiquitous social distancing circles) that read "stand here for dance party" on the ground in Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan. When unsuspecting New Yorkers and tourists followed instructions and stood on the decal, they soon found themselves surrounded by a 100-person dance party featuring a professional b-boy dance crew and a vintage 1980s boombox.

This project is made in collaboration with the Museum of the City of New York and their new exhibition New York, New Music: 1980-1986.

Our entire cast and crew were fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

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Pole dancing, striptease - how to dance; man pole dance | e1.


Yuri Proshin from Arkhangelsk chose a pole instead of a barbell - in such an atypical way for men, he decided to maintain physical fitness. Acrobatics really requires stamina and agility. And let for the uninitiated, everything looks like a striptease - in fact, these are hard workouts in which all muscle groups are involved. Although without huge heels - nowhere.

Pole dance is a type of dance that uses one or two poles. The performance combines elements of choreography, gymnastics, and acrobatics. Often mistakenly confused with striptease.

Of course, you could go to the gym for strong muscles, but for the creative personality of Yuri Proshin - he works as an actor in the drama theater - it seemed too boring.

- The main difference from the pieces of iron is that you cannot choose the weight here. You are still working with your weight. Well, you can't get away from him. You have to lift yourself up, just in different positions.

All muscles are involved in pole dance. After a month of training, Yuri felt the result. So he was drawn into pole acrobatics. For the ninth month he has been training surrounded by girls. For Arkhangelsk, a man in such classes is a rarity, which is also confirmed by Nadezhda Istomina, head of the Soul Club studio:

- When Yura wrote, I remember sending this message to all my coaches: “Look, a boy wrote to us!” But I so wanted him to try himself, because for other cities it is normal that a man dances on a pole.

The coach gives Yuri a more difficult load. It is easier for men to perform the power elements of the dance. The main profession prepared Yuri for pole dance. As we have already said, he is a drama theater actor:

— And it helped me a lot that I had also encountered acrobatics before, and it seems that I have no problems with a sense of balance. I know how to fall safely, it also helped a lot. I’ll tell you a secret: in order to fall safely, you need to quickly lie down, says Yuri Proshin.

The actor has always loved the language of movement and dancing, but 20 cm high heels became a test...

— I thought: my God, how high. In fact, dance shoes, they are specially designed for this, and it is very comfortable to stand and walk on them. And there are elements that are really easier and safer to do in strips than just with a bare leg.

Hobbies are not the most common in male circles, but Yuri Proshin is not afraid of a wave of hate. Relatives accept all his hobbies.

- Friends support, mother supports, but does not understand why strips. At work, they got used to me that I was constantly doing something incomprehensible. So, they giggle, but in a kind way.

Earlier we told the story of hairdresser Nadezhda Semyonova, who, at the age of 57, also decided to master pole acrobatics. She went to pole dance out of pure curiosity, but over time she was so carried away by this direction that she even installed a pole at home.


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Valeria Bogatyreva


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