Video: New York City subway tap dancer

If you find yourself on the New York City subway on any given weekend, you may be treated to the dance styling of a young tap dancer trying to support himself through college. Joshua Johnson is a junior at Penn State University and a native New Yorker who travels home twice a month to tap dance on the subway and earn extra cash through donations of subway riders. Joshua primarily taps on the 2, 3 and Q trains and calls his performance “The Tap Express.”

While performing and soliciting donations on the subway is illegal without permission from the MTA, chances are you’ve seen some kind of performer on the train if you’ve ridden enough times. In my 12-plus years in New York, I’ve seen (and even participated in) a few acts including magicians, break dancers, comedians, steel drummers, Doo Wop singers and plenty of just-plain-crazies, often the most entertaining performers of all.

Video produced by the New York Times.

Inside Virgin America’s mid-continent arrival

Virgin America DFW

I don’t think I actually understood the implications of Virgin America’s launch into “fortress-hub” Dallas/Fort Worth until we touched down on the tarmac.

As we taxied to our gate, I could see nothing but a endless row of silver fuselages; all adorned with the iconic blue & red “AA” logo. It felt almost as if we were silently making our way through the front gates of a modern-day Troy.

The only difference, of course, was that this Trojan horse was bright red, equipped with mood lighting, and ready to be received by a cheering crowd of residents, city officials, and the rebel billionaire himself, Sir Richard Branson. To top it off, the tarmac was host to a pen of live bulls, tent with cocktail service, and full fledged Texan barbecue – the type of spectacle I’ve come to know, love, and anticipate when Virgin wants to catch people’s attention.

And it certainly seems as if American has already taken notice. In the weeks leading up to the launch, the legacy carrier lowered fares by 20% and offered double frequent flyer miles aboard Dallas-San Francisco and Dallas-Los Angeles routes.

DFW Public Affairs Manager, David Magaña, also mentioned that American hasn’t been able to stop talking about Virgin’s arrival preceding the event, as it signifies the first of several low-cost carriers that will be entering the Dallas market in 2011. While this loosens American’s 85% share of flights from the hub, it spurs competition and ultimately lower fares for passengers.Virgin America’s first mid-continent destination comes at a good moment in the airline’s young story. They posted their first quarterly net profit (as opposed to operating profit) in Q3 of 2010 and were rated top domestic airline for the third year running in the 2010 Zagat Global Airline Survey. At this year’s Farnborough Air Show, they announced plans to more than double their fleet with a purchase of 40 new Airbus A320’s. Now, with their entrance into Dallas consummated, they’ve shown that they’re ready to make their presence tangible and (thankfully) shake thing up a bit.


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However, to make a significant impact, they’ll have to add more flights. At the moment, Virgin America will offer two daily nonstop flights between DFW and Los Angeles, and two to San Francisco. Although it plans to add a third on each route, it would require significantly more options to directly compete with the hundreds of flights per day that American and American Eagle offer.

“It signifies a second stage for the company. We knew eventually that we’d be going into the middle of the country but now seemed the right time since we’ve blanketed most of the coasts. So this is the second stage of our network development.” Virgin America CEO David Cush said in an interview on the flight.

He also emphasized the company’s dedication with hiring “creative, smart, risk-tolerant people who are willing to go out and push the envelope.” as they grow, and that they’re “not sitting back”, but pursuing the development of a “new in-flight experience” that could be ready as soon as 2012.

The night proceeded to unfold in Dallas’s emerging and surprisingly modern downtown arts district with an intimate performance by activist & music icon, Willie Nelson. Following Nelson’s recent arrest for possession of marijuana, Branson donned a shirt that read “Free Willie” and cheekily quipped that the 77-year old musician looked good after “losing six ounces”.

Virgin America DFW

In partnership with nonprofit foundation Stand Up To Cancer, Virgin transformed the Winspear Opera House into a glowing red hub of its own; filled with Dallas’s elite and hundreds of donors that had gathered friends for Stand Up To Cancer’s cause.

It was an impressive occasion that only an airline leveraging Branson’s magic could pull together, and one that sent a clear signal to the rest of Dallas. Virgin America has entered the mid-continent rodeo, and is ready to take the legacy bulls by their horns.

For more information, check out Virgin America’s introductory fares and schedules right here.

Theater, art, and Haggis! A guide to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Each week, Gadling is taking a look at our favorite festivals around the world. From music festivals to cultural showcases to the just plain bizarre, we hope to inspire you to do some festival exploring of your own. Come back each Wednesday for our picks or find them all HERE.

Known as the “largest festival on Earth, Scotland’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival has something for everyone. From students donning kilts wanting to groove to the newest Jazz singers to street performers on stilts, this annual festival is an adventure where the energy flows into the streets and makes everyone feel like a performing artist for the day. The Fringe has come a long way: from its 1947 beginnings with only eight theater companies, to the present day festival, which sells over 1.8 million tickets each year! Tourists now travel from around the globe to experience this extraordinary event.

Begun by the Festival Fringe Society as an “open access festival” allowing unrestricted exhibition by anyone interested in performing, the modern version of the festival now features some of the world’s most unique and avant-garde artistic and theatrical pursuits. The shows range from dramatic Shakespeare told from the perspective of dinosaurs to puppets singing show tunes. However, the performances are only half of the experience that comes along with the price of the ticket. What else happens at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival? Keep reading below.

With over 34,000 performances taking place over three weeks, the word ‘venue’ takes on a whole new meaning at the Edinburgh Fringe. The performance spaces range from a traditional stage to more progressive bars to classrooms with floor seating to places not so appealing like toilets!

Shows start all throughout the day and run long into the night, so every attendee should pick up a program. Treat the program like your tour guide for the length of your visit. Inside you’ll get reviews, a synopsis and location information for each show. Grab a scone and your program and hike up to Arthur’s Seat, the highest point in the city, for a panoramic city view and chart out each day. Since performances vary a great deal in length and are located all throughout the city, double check your times and locations before buying tickets.

Though the offerings of the Fringe Festival change every year, the one show that is on the top of every must-see list is the Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle, a 90-minute celebration lead by over a thousand musicians and ending with fireworks. Tickets for the event are in high demand every year, so make sure to buy those tickets in advance. When it’s over, walk to a pub and have yourself a “dram” of Scotch while trying the Haggis (a Scottish tradition of a sheep’s heart, liver and lungs mixed with spices) and tasting the tatties (potatoes). Like the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, it’s a one-of-a-kind Scottish experience!

This year the festival is scheduled from August 6-30th. Follow on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date on the latest happenings of the Fringe!

Photo of the Day (12.20.2009)

I’m loving the “eye-catching,” over-the-shoulder perspective in today’s photo, brought to us courtesy of Flickr user The L-List. The picture’s subject is a Balinese dancer, preparing some pre-performance makeup. The mirror’s reflection and great angle make you feel as though you were right there backstage, getting ready to start the show.

Want your pics considered for Gadling’s Photo of the Day? Submit your best ones here.

In Oberammergau: the most “passionate” performance you will ever see

Now you can visit a plague-ridden era and watch history unfold. No, this is not an invitation to get busy with swine flu. Instead, head out to Oberammergau, Bavaria and witness a performance that has been carried out for centuries.

In 1633, Oberammergau’s population was decimated by the Plague. The villagers were brutalized, but their spirit remained strong, and they promised to act out the events of the last days of Jesus Christ, ending in the resurrection, every tenth year. This Passion performance, sans any influence from Mel Gibson, is an extremely local affair. If you weren’t born in the village or haven’t lived there for at least 20 years, the best you can do is watch with the masses. The stage is reserved for the true villagers.

Half the village is engaged to assist, from acting to playing music to creating costumes – in the case of Oberammergau, that’s 2,500 people out of a 5,200-person population. In what seems like a scene from The Greek Passion by Nikos Kazantzakis (who is more famous for his other book, The Last Temptation of Christ), lead roles are sketched out on a chalk board, while all of Oberammergau waits anxiously. The parts are assigned the year before. In the run-up to the performance, the cast grows its hair long and cultivates beards (not the women, of course), as wigs are not permitted.

While you’re in the village, ask around to see if the actors assume the characteristics of their assignments, as they did in the book by Kazantzakis. In the novel, the poor guy assigned to play Judas couldn’t get anyone to hang out with him. But, he took the part for a good cause.

From May 15, 2010 to October 3, 2010, the forty-first Oberammergau Passion will be performed 102 times, with each showing lasting around five hours. It runs from 2:30 PM to 5:00 PM and 8:00 PM to 10:30 PM, with the time in between reserved for dinner. Though the symphony-sized orchestra is protected from the elements, the actors are exposed to the whims of the seasons, much like the figures they depict.

If you’re interested in experiencing this rare event, catch a flight to Munich, and drive the 55 miles to Oberammergau. Packages are available in town for one or two nights. Without a doubt, this is a unique performance, and any travel or theater junkie should absolutely experience it at least once. You could put it off a decade … but why wait?

Here’s a bit from ol’ Mel, in case you need a refresher: