Snap Boogie has a dream: “To do a show where people pay $100 to come watch [him] do [his] thing on the big stage.” Years and years into performing, that dream has not faded.
Snap Boogie, born Cjaiilon Andrade, is a street performer in Boston who specializes in tap, acrobatics and most of all, his titular move: boogieing. Most weekends, he performs at Faneuil Hall, Newbury Street, a halftime show or a private event. Weekdays, however, are devoted to his newest professional endeavor: starting an NFT business.
“Being a street performer is totally different than being a business owner or CEO or anything like that,” Andrade said. “You have to use your street smarts just to get to the places you want to get to.”
This former “America’s Got Talent” semi-finalist has it all: charm, a sense of humor, talent and the entrepreneurial spirit.
In Andrade’s typical show, he dances as an eager crowd starts to gather and pulls a kid volunteer from the audience to have them imitate his moves.
He is at ease, in his element, inspiring young people and enticing passersby. At his Sept. 18 show on Newbury Street, he did a flip and gestured for the kid to mimic him. The kid didn’t, of course, so Snap Boogie lifted the young girl and flipped her over himself with ease. Her parents watched anxiously from the sidelines, some laughing, others tensely grinning behind their phones.
After a series of tricks, now comes the real part: the dancing. He boogied, improvised and popped to “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson. At one point, he worked his way down to the ground and paused his music.
“The real trick is getting up,” he said.
Of course, this is just a setup for the punchline when the 29-year-old slowly stands up as if plagued by chronic back pain.
Eventually, he flipped over the volunteers to the climax of the song “Mr. Clean” by rapper Yung Gravy. Towards the end, he asked for donations, but it’s not his only motivation.
“I believe live street theater should be for everyone, whether you have money or not,” Andrade said.
Despite using the same jokes, music and tricks for every show, much of what he does involves improvisation and responding to the crowd.
One of his audience members, Emmanuel College second-year Emma Connolly, said she had seen him perform in Provincetown, Massachusetts, before but still wanted to watch his show when she saw him in Boston.
“I think one of the things I was just thinking about as I was watching is how it still feels like the first time that I was watching it, it’s super cool to see,” Connolly said. “Even though he’s doing the same thing, it still entices us to watch the whole show.”
At the show, an older woman came up to him and began dancing alongside him.
“Mom, I told you to stay in the car, I gotta do my show,” Andrade said jokingly, giving her a hug. “Everybody give it up for my mom!”
He let the woman take a bow when she finished her dance. After the show, he said he had never seen that woman before in his life.
“That’s kind of why I’m out here,” Andrade said. “I’m out here because I love people.”
People love him too. Kenia Gomez, who was visiting Boston from Cuba, said she has seen many street performances around the globe, but still loved the show and Andrade himself.
“I thought his personality was so lively, that impressed me the most. He engaged everyone, even the children,” Gomez said.
Andrade grew up in Roxbury and attended Mount Pleasant High School in Providence, Rhode Island.
“We all called it ‘Mount Pregnant.’ There [are] reasons for that,” he said.
He never graduated and instead dropped out to pursue dance. A self-taught dancer, he said he takes inspiration from Michael Jackson, which is evident through his choppy movements and affinity for Jackson songs while performing.
“I had a lot of energy, I got ADD and anytime the music was on, I was ready to go,” Andrade said.
Andrade inherited the name “Snap” from his uncle, who was also a street performer. “Boogie” came from his chosen style of dance. Andrade said many dancers call themselves “something Boogie” as a way to identify their art.
He was 18 years old when he was on “America’s Got Talent.” In his audition video he spoke about how dance kept him off the streets and helped him pay his mother’s bills.
His audition in New York started with moonwalking, then flashing his signature smile and doing a slow motion animated wave to the audience that he still does at his shows today. The judges immediately loved him: on the show they described him as a “free spirit,” a “beast,” with “electric” moves.
His reign on the show ultimately came to an end in the semifinals, but that didn’t stop him from getting widespread acclaim.
Andrade has now turned his attention to the digital space, launching his company Beauty in the Streets in 2021 and is working to create his own dance NFT company. The idea is to ensure that dancers and their dance moves do not get plagiarized by big gaming corporations. In the past few years, NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have risen in popularity and value as the crypto currency world has expanded.
Essentially, NFTs can be anything: an animation, a video or a work of art. By buying an NFT, one is essentially buying the ownership of the product. In Boogie’s case, he is creating an animation file of a person’s dance move that can be used in video games or the metaverse.
He is doing this so that other dancers are able to take ownership of their moves and become a part of the crypto community.
“The reason I say mine is a real project is because there’s something behind it,” Andrade said. “This thing can last forever because what we’re doing is we’re getting dancers closer to getting intellectual property. If you buy the NFT, it allows you to buy the dance move inside the game.”
Some dancers in his company include the Williams Brothers, a viral TikTok and Instagram account which posts videos of four brothers doing trending dances; Poppin John, a YouTube sensation for his breaking moves; Shafar, a dancer popular on Instagram and TikTok, and more.
Balancing his NFT company and finding time to perform on the street and for private companies takes work, but as demonstrated by his act, balancing is one of his strengths.
“We’re creating an ecosystem to build something for the future,” Andrade said. “A lot of companies have tried to steal my idea, but we have the community.”