Members of the KOMA Crew, Cordero Clark, left, and Tracey Green, perform for cheering spectators near Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street. (Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune / July 14, 2012)
By Vikki Ortiz Healy, Chicago Tribune reporter
July 14, 2012
A swarm of pedestrians is approaching quickly, and the Kings of Michigan Avenue jump into action.
“What time is it?” Cordero Clark, the leader of KOMA Crew, calls out to other performers stretching and doing crooked handstands on a sidewalk stage marked off with masking tape.
“It’s showtime!” the others shout back, and, like clockwork, a crowd made up of families pushing strollers, couples walking arm in arm and tourists carrying shopping bags pauses to watch the young men joke, dance and flip through the air for a 15-minute performance designed to showcase their talents and bring in the cash.
And bring in the cash it does: On any given day during the busy summer months, as many as seven KOMA Crew members split collections of more than $1,000, they say. The take is higher during Taste of Chicago.
“This is our job. This is our career. This is what we chose to do for life,” says Clark, 25, who started the hip-hop acrobatics group eight years ago and can be found most sunny afternoons on the corner of East Randolph Street and North Michigan Avenue. “I like to be in people’s memory.”
This year, KOMA Crew is one of 701 street acts licensed to perform in Chicago, the highest number since 2006, when city leaders passed a measure banning performers from Michigan Avenue between Delaware Place and Superior Street. Officials say the increase in acts, which range from “bucket boys” who bang on drums to mimes covered in metallic paint, reflects the down economy that has left many people out of work.
But members of KOMA Crew — some of whom left full-time jobs with benefits to perform on the street — say it’s about passion and doing what you love. And by putting on a show for crowds twice every hour, seven days a week, the young men hope their persistence will bring the exposure that has taken Chicago street performing groups before them to New York and Los Angeles.
Copyright © 2012, Chicago Tribune