At first glance, no one would guess Andrew Kerosky, 20, has a secret Friday night hobby. His professors didn’t know at first. His parents didn’t find out until he was caught. He even hid it from his roommate.
For a year this second-year college student has been dancing on East 15th Avenue near Ingra Street. Every Friday around 5 p.m., he shows up with his iPod to his rush-hour curbside stage.
The dancer and his audience
Dancing is Kerosky’s way of getting out the stress and emotions from daily life. He doesn’t often reveal his most authentic reason for dancing; most people don’t understand it.
“One of the big reasons I dance is to get people to not like me,” Kerosky said. “It gives me adversity that I can deal with. It gives me challenges that I can overcome.”
Kerosky has taken on many challenges. Once he had to confront the passengers of a pickup who kept throwing plastic hubcaps at him. He’s also had people flip him off, ask for drugs and call him crazy.
“Dealing with these kinds of situations gives me strength to deal with things in the future,” Kerosky said. “One guy smacked me in the back of the head when he was biking by.”
The man, who was around Kerosky’s age, biked by yelling profanities last summer.
“I was just like, ‘Fair enough,’ and I smiled and waved at him. And this is what I learned: If somebody is angry and you smile and wave at them, it makes them very angry,” Kerosky said.
The guy came back and tried to kick Kerosky off the sidewalk. He threatened him and repeatedly ripped off his headphones. Kerosky held his ground, and the angry biker soon realized there was a street full of cars honking at him. Some drivers even pulled out cell phones and prepared to call to help their street dancer. The biker left and came back twice when traffic died down – the second time to give Kerosky a hard smack as he sped by.
The dancing man on the street is not an unusual topic at the corner Shell gas station and A&W Restaurant on Fridays. Mag Choi, who works for Shell, told Kerosky that he could let her know if anyone was causing trouble and she would get help. The staff likes to watch him dance out the window. They even offer him free drinks on Fridays.
People ask Choi if Kerosky is crazy, but she just thinks it’s neat that he’s always on time and makes people happy.
“I’m so proud of him,” Choi said.
Although Kerosky was not trying to attract favorable attention, he ended up with a fan base. Now people honk, smile, wave, flash headlights and give thumbs-up as they drive by.
Sonya Garcia, 3, is one of Kerosky’s biggest fans. On a recent Friday evening, she peered out the open window from her car seat as the car stopped at the streetlight. Her mother, Jackie, said they have to come by every Friday, and if Kerosky isn’t there at that time, Sonya cries.
With a new audience coming in with each change of the streetlight, he has experimented to find what makes people react positively. Energetic dancing brings more honks, eye contact breaks down barriers and singing connects people to the music. If a vehicle pulls up with music turned up, Kerosky will even take off his headphones and dance to their music.
He wears shorts in the summer and long johns and sometimes a coat in the winter. He favors Star Wars T-shirts; he tries not to wear clothing with messages, as he is not trying to make a statement.
Most of the 150 songs on his playlist are fast-paced rock and rap with a few slow jazz songs mixed in. His favorite bands randomly shuffle through – Garbage, Matchbox Twenty, Outcast, Eminem, Counting Crows, Linkin Park and Offspring.
“The music makes me want to dance, and I want to dance because I listen to the music,” he said.
His moves are an expression of the emotions he feels from the music. In the last couple weeks Kerosky has also been inspired by the floor slides of David Elsewhere, which are slightly similar to Michel Jackson’s moonwalk. Elsewhere has incorporated various dance illusions that boggle the mind in appearances on YouTube, commercials, movies and late night TV.
Picking up the beat
Kerosky had no professional dance experience when he stepped onto the street corner for the first time.
He had attended the University of Southern California for a year, where he found that people had a stigma against headphones. Instead of alienating himself in the music, he would nod his head to the beat as he walked. Eventually he incorporated jumps and turns. People seemed to accept it when he showed them what he was listening to through movement.
He returned to Alaska for a yearlong break from college before attending UAA last fall. In February 2006, Kerosky’s car broke down near the 15th and Ingra intersection. As he waited for a ride, he bobbed to his music on the sidewalk to stay warm. Confused drivers watched as he began to dance on the ice.
A few weeks later, Kerosky decided to return, and since March 2006 he has never missed the Friday commute, even with a busy schedule. On Fridays he gets up at 6:30 a.m., works at 7:30 a.m., goes home at 3:30 p.m. to change, dances during the commute, and then changes again and heads to salsa dance lessons at Club Soraya. He has danced sick, sweating, and in minus 6 temperatures. His longest stint was three and a half hours long.
“One of the reasons I first started was because it is something that is very unexpected of me,” Kerosky said. “I’m a quiet guy. I’m shy. I don’t like talking to people and stuff like that. I was very ready to do something unexpected. I didn’t really like who I was.”
Kerosky kept quiet about his new hobby.
His mother was driving home when she saw her son jumping and dancing on the side of the road for the first time. Kerosky said she freaked out, got out of her car and started asking if he was OK. It took a while for him to explain what he was doing, but she accepted the answer that he was doing it to make people happy. Now both his parents are supportive of his dancing.
Kerosky’s roommate, senior psychology major Adrienne Weiss, thinks favorably of her friend’s hobby but didn’t know about it until she read about him in a newspaper.
“He actually made a point of not telling me,” Weiss said. “I’d ask where he was going on Fridays and he wouldn’t tell me. I was surprised. I had no idea that he was even interested in dancing or anything like that, or that he would get out and do something like that in public.”
Even Kerosky’s dance professor, Katya Kuznetsova, didn’t realize at first that the 15th and Ingra dancer her friend had been telling her about was the same undeclared UAA student she had in her Fall 2006 Latin dance elective. Kerosky is currently taking modern and popular American social dance classes with Kuznetsova.
She noticed Kerosky had a tendency to be curious and would watch other classes. He was patient in class and came across “as a very kind person.”
Kerosky said he doesn’t think he was much of a dancer when he started, but the classes have helped him learn some steps and techniques he can incorporate into his moves. He also attributes his improvement to his dance professor.
“She immediately figured out that I just kind of wanted to dance and I didn’t really know how to dance,” Kerosky said.
Kuznetsova likes his dance moves and sees them as more of a form of expression than a style.
“A freeform or freestyle form of expression can sometimes be more beautiful than a very structured movement,” Kuznetsova said.
Kuznetsova says Kerosky is her personal hero because he doesn’t let other people’s judgments concern him, unlike other students and herself.
“I just think if more people would dance freely on the street, everybody’s life would be more open and happier,” Kuznetsova said.
Kerosky says the reason he shows up every Friday is still just for personal benefit. However, seeing positive reactions does bring a smile to his face.
A woman once told him he changed the way men in her family thought about dancing. Another woman named Amy has joined him at times to dance before having to go home to make her kids a meal. He’s even had people jump out of their cars to break dance next to him for a few seconds before moving on.
“It’s a dual relationship. As long as they keep getting something out of it and I keep getting something out of it, then it’s OK,” Kerosky said when asked how long he plans to dance.
Last year, if someone had asked Kerosky, a part-time FedEx and Providence Alaska Medical Center employee, what his dream job would be, he would have said he wanted to make music videos.
His outlook has changed over the year.
“At some point I realized that I’m actually pretty happy with the way I’m living right now,” Kerosky said. “I don’t really need to be quote-unquote successful, as long as I am happy.”