Olympic ban a tight squeeze for Spandy: Vancouver street performer dances around city busking regulations
March 3, 2010 by Kim Ytsma
Standing in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Andy Rimer adjusts his tight yellow short-shorts, which he wears atop his custom-made, neon checkered spandex outfit.
“Today, I am wearing a luxurious one-piece,” said the 22-year-old, as he modeled his outfit with a laugh, pulling a pair of black goggles over his curly locks and placing his oldschool boom box on the sidewalk. The Andy Samberg look-alike spent a moment skipping through techno songs before bursting out onto the street and gyrating down the road.
He moon-walked, break-danced and freestyled down the pavement, and pedestrians couldn’t help but laugh. As Rimer danced circles around an unsuspecting businessman carrying a briefcase and shook his booty at a middle-aged man, an old woman on an electric scooter stopped to watch and smiled.
“I love getting people’s reactions and shocking people. I love bringing them out of their regular day,” said Rimer. “Whether they smile or they’re just stunned, I know they won’t forget what they just saw.”
His parents know him as Andy, but Rimer is better known as his alter-ego, Spandy Andy: Vancouver’s spandex-wearing break-dancer, who has dominated the street-performing scene since his first appearance at English Bay.
“Spandy Andy puts the mint in entertainment,” said Rimer, “and that’s fresh!”
After his audition on So You Think You Can Dance Canada was aired nation-wide, and he won the title of Colgate’s Freshest Dancer and $10,000, “Spandy” has returned to the streets of Vancouver to do what he loves best: make people smile. Even though many choose to shy away from his wild antics, Rimer doesn’t mind in the least: this is what he loves to do.
“For sure people ignore me,” said Rimer. “They’re scared of me, which is kind of funny since I’m a five-foot-nothing guy in spandex.”
Although the cold weather didn’t stop his performance today, the approaching Vancouver Olympics could. According to the City of Vancouver, buskers are not permitted anywhere near the Olympic venues during the 2010 games. A representative from the city’s busking department told the Chronicle that the ban around the Olympics was due to “security concerns,” something Rimer has a hard time understanding.
“Look at me,” said Rimer, looking down and laughing at his ridiculous outfit. “What is this short, goofy looking man in spandex going to do?”
The city wanted to make it clear that artists have the opportunity to perform in other areas of the city, as long as they have a permit and follow the city’s guidelines.
Within the past year, Rimer has fought many battles with city officials, including one over the volume of his boom box and another over where he can park his neon-green electric scooter, but this is by far his biggest battle. With recent changes to the regulations, Rimer could bunable to perform in public.
“We are not allowing any music amplification [including] batteryoperated or electric…no boom boxes,” said the city’s representative. That’s a change to the original “reasonable” volume control allowed last year.
The new restrictions and Olympic ban has forced Rimer to take “Spandy Andy” elsewhere, seeking out local community-building project “I Heart Van Art” to support his act. I Heart Van Art has partnered with the Yaletown Business Improvement association, according to Rimer, who said the association would be filling up the streets of Yaletown for a 17-day street event during the Olympics.
Rimer plans to apply as a performer at the event, but he also has a way of getting around the city’s bylaws, allowing “Spandy Andy” a chance at worldwide fame, as tourists from all over the world swarm the Vancouver Games.
“It creates complication when you put your hat out and ask for money, so if I don’t have a hat, I’m not technically a busker,” said Rimer. “Nobody can get mad at a random guy dancing in spandex. You just can’t be angry at that.”
As Rimer danced past a row of cars stopped at a traffic light near the Art Gallery and signalled for them to start dancing, a middle-aged man rolled down his window and began dancing behind the wheel. A huge smile came across Rimer’s face, as he danced with the man until the light turned green.
“Just wait for the Olympics,” said Rimer. “Without the hat, I’m going to be busting out of trees. You never know when Spandy Andy’s going to pop out of nowhere and surprise you.”