Multimedia artist, dancer, and choreographer Bill Shannon took his crutches and skateboards through the streets of Lower Manhattan on June 2, weaving around vehicles, interacting with strangers, dancing on public sculpture, and even hooking up with an old friend while being followed by the audience in a bus in the exhilarating “Traffic: A Transient Specific Performance.” The Pittsburgh-based Shannon, who contracted the degenerative bilateral hip deformity Legg-Calvé Perthes disease when he was a child, is in the midst of a three-month residency at Dance New Amsterdam, where he has given classes and lectures on the Shannon Technique and installed the video project “spatiotemporality: The Evolution of William Foster Shannon.” For “Traffic,” Shannon, who needs crutches, commissioned an original hip-hop score mixed by DJ Brian Coxx that blasts through the air-conditioned Academy bus while VJ Glytch handles the video feed on small monitors so the people on board could always follow Shannon’s movements.
Although Shannon, who considers himself a sociological anthropologist, has the route laid out in advance, skating and dancing through the Financial District, in Battery Park, and under the Brooklyn Bridge, among other locations, what he does on the way is completely freestyle, incorporating signature moves as he becomes part of the urban architecture. While people on the bus were running from side to side to watch him out the windows, he completely coincidentally picked up skateboard legend Mike Wright, whom he used to ride with back in 1993 and is now hawking skateboard DVDs on the street; got a jug of iced tea from a construction crew; stopped for a smoke with a man in a suit; had a brief talk with a female MTA bus driver; put on a show for a crowd of tourists who were utterly confused; and got shooed away from one area by a city cop. At one point, he skated around Mark di Suvero’s large, red “Joi de Vivre” sculpture in Zuccotti Park near Ground Zero; coincidentally, di Suvero also needs crutches, the result of a serious elevator accident that left him partially paralyzed. As exciting as it is to watch Shannon perform his remarkable feats with no fear, it’s also fascinating to gauge the public’s reaction, as they shake their head in wonder, shrug their shoulders in disbelief, laugh, reach for their cameras, or, perhaps most often, look away, as if Shannon were invisible – or just another strange thing in New York City. Shannon holds a brief Q&A session back at Dance New Amsterdam following the amazing, insane seventy-five-minute performance, discussing some of the unique aspects of what he just experienced and asking the audience to share their thoughts. “Traffic” will also take place June 3 and 4, with seating limited to thirty-seven; don’t miss this one-of-a-kind thrill that takes advantage of the many joys of life.