This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Bill Shannon has just begun a three-month residency at Dance New Amsterdam

Bill Shannon is in the midst of a three-month residency at Dance New Amsterdam

Dance New Amsterdam
280 Broadway, second floor
Exhibition runs through June 18, free
Lecture/performance: May 25, $17, 8:00
Traffic: June 2-4, $20-$25, 4:30

When Bill Shannon was five years old, he was diagnosed with Legg-Calvé Perthes disease, a degenerative, bilateral hip deformity that has required him to use crutches and braces for most of his life. The onetime Easter Seals poster child, who turns forty this year, used breakdancing and skateboarding as a way to project his burgeoning creativity, eventually developing the Shannon Technique, which combines his remarkable dexterity on crutches with the sociological phenomena of interacting with a public that has has preconceived notions and differing levels of comfort in the presence of so-called disabled people. On the stage and in the streets, Shannon, who is in the midst of a three-month residency at Dance New Amsterdam (DNA), has created a fascinating visual vocabulary that involves such moves as the sweeper, frontside airs, toeflips, splitmids, the elbow stall, and nohanders and nofooters, using what he refers to as “disability based utilitarianism” in his dance and choreography, incorporating playful tricks as well as emotionally wrought movement that uses natural sound and light in addition to hip-hop music.

His crutches become an extension of his body instead of a prop or a handicap as he elicits fascinating reactions from the public, experiences that he has documented in a series of videos that are collected on the second floor of DNA, twenty monitors that depict “The Evolution of William Foster Shannon.” The videos include Shannon going up and down the steps of an art museum receiving “help” from strangers, riding through the streets on crutches and a skateboard with multiple cameras attached to give amazing views of his travels, his stunning duet with a woman in a wheelchair, and side-by-side depictions of his attempts to pull off certain specific moves, one video featuring his failures, the other his successes. In another outdoor performance in a small downtown New York City park, he hides himself in a white outfit and becomes “invisible,” slowly making his way through the area as people mostly ignore him. On May 25, Shannon will be giving a lecture/performance at DNA that should be both entertaining and intriguing, as he is an engaging character with endless insights into such interactivity as the “face of distraction,” “questioning the stare,” and the “weight of empathy,” terms he uses in describing his unique art form.

Bill Shannon’s “Spatiotemporality” video exhibit continues at DNA through June 18 (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

“Many people from all walks of life experience stereotypes projected upon them in a public context,” Shannon explains on his website. “The difference in my opinion between reactions to my ambiguous and wide ranging representation of disability and the stereotypes other people endure related to their ability, age, race, class, culture, gender, and sexual orientation is the ease at which people will communicate with me directly and indirectly about the details of my life and identity and the cumulative volume of communication about these details over my lifetime.” Audiences will get the extreme pleasure of watching Shannon in action in his live street piece “Traffic”: From June 2 to 4, Shannon will present a Transient Specific Street Performance, starting at DNA and gliding down the streets of Lower Manhattan on his crutches and skateboard, turning the urban landscape into his stage while the audience follows him in a bus. Don’t miss any of these rare chances to see Shannon in action.

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