Art History: My Secret to Subway Surfing

Growing up on the outskirts of the five boroughs with two parents working in Midtown Manhattan meant trips into the city were customary. Excursions into the city provided the perfect platform for the inauguration of a true New Yorker: surviving the subway.
In full honesty, it took me eighteen years to decode the puzzle that is the MTA Subway Map. Figuring out where you’re going is half the battle. Avoiding falling on your face is an entirely different issue. Patrons of the city’s famed underground transportation network will often sacrifice their seats for small children, but never for able-bodied adults. Once you pass your growth spurt, you are left to stand quite literally on your own two feet.
It wasn’t until I was taking summer classes at CUNY Baruch that I finally cracked the code to hands free subway surfing hiding in my course material: contrapposto. This is an Italian term that translates to ‘counterpose.’ Contrapposto involves focusing on the tension of the limbs in a way that is meant to give statues a balanced appearance, and as I have discovered, will actually help you balance and survive standing on public transportation.
In contrapposto, one leg is tense, or engaged, while the opposite leg is free, or relaxed. The way to master this technique in subway surfing is to focus on the tension in your knees and your feet. The idea is not to stand as still as a statue, but to avoid falling over and remain upright. One foot should carry your weight while you bend the knee of that leg slightly. The other foot should be relaxed with a straight knee. This system of counterbalancing should help you remain steady while letting you sway with the movement of the train to avoid being knocked over by sharp turns and high speeds. Try it out the next time all the seats are filled, or you forget your hand sanitizer.

Cheers to standing up straight,

Michelle Ajodah