Bill Shannon

Bill Shannon is an interdisciplinary artist and maker who explores body-centric work through video installation, sculpture, linguistics, sociology, choreography, dance and politics. Bill has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Choreography, a Foundation For Contemporary Art Fellowship in Performance Art, and has worked as a choreographer and performer for Cirque Du Soleil. Bill’s contributions to dance include a very specific movement vocabulary evolved through his creative use of crutches as a child after the discovery of a physical disability that effected his ability to bear weight in his hips. Bill’s subsequent immersion in the emergent youth cultures of hip-hop and skateboarding further contributed to his autodidactic form on crutches. Shannon eventually moved to New York City and became a fixture at underground dance clubs, where he fused his history of childhood play on crutches with his contemporary kinetic expressions of hip-hop and skateboarding. The result of this fusion was a singular style of mobility, performance art and dance that required multiple new designs and fabrications of modified crutches to sustain technical advances in his movement practices.

While in New York, Bill’s interdisciplinary dance works focused on translating "street dance" into the proscenium context were presented at PS122, Dance Theater Workshop, and The Kitchen, among others in NYC and globally. The New York Times hailed Shannon's form of movement on crutches as "defying gravity" as his name grew in underground street dance battles including the Rocksteady Crew Anniversary Battle and Seattle's Freestyle Sessions. Over the period of a decade Bill became a fixture at NYC’s famed Club Shelter, and a lifetime member of the internationally renowned StepFēnz Crew.

In 2001 Bill was offered a starring role as a performer in a Cirque Du Soleil production, Varekai, but opted to become part of the creative team, performing at special events and training an understudy to tour with the show. In 2004, expecting their second child, Bill and his family relocated to Pittsburgh, where he continues to work in performance, utilizing video installation and metal sculpture in solo works for the stage and street. In addition to his work as a performer, Bill frequently lectures on his performance practice and the phenomenological and linguistic framing he has created around his street practice globally. Shannon’s life and creative work are currently the subject of a documentary film in progress, The Art of Weightlessness.

In 2016 Bill was awarded a National Dance Project Production Award from New England Foundation for the Arts, a Heinz Endowment Small Arts Award to support the development of his latest work, Touch Update. Currently Bill Shannon is a Fellow of the Frank-Ratchye Studio For Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh and the Penn Avenue Creative Artist in Residence at Kelly Strayhdorn Theater. Bill’s work, Touch Update is being created in collaboration with dancers Slow Danger and Get Down Gang and VJ / Mapper Projectile Objects. Touch Update will premiere at Kelly Strayhorn Theater's newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival in Pittsburgh May 11 and 12, 2018.

Work in Development | April 3 - 14, 2017

Touch Update

Bill Shannon comes to MANCC as a Visiting Artist for his first residency to develop Touch Update, which combines movement, wearable projection technology and video installation to explore the significant and often subtle implications of physical human contact in the digital era. The project dissects and dismantles the multiple online identities we create in order to offer the world a curated window into our lives—a version that masks and manipulates our lived experience.

As part of the creation process, Shannon stages performances in public spaces that are observed by a handful of “artist witnesses” who then document the experience through their creative lenses. These responses are shared as unique documents that replace the ubiquitous “proof” of digital photography and disrupt the primacy of video as an immutable form of record.

On stage, dancers inhabit sculptural fragmentations of themselves, breaking out via text messages and emoticons in search of an exquisite embrace. Cubist-inspired wearable video masks present the performers’ pre-recorded and scripted faces, as real emotions are expressed beneath—digital identities overlaid on “real" life. Embedded in technology, the performers reveal their yearning to connect, as a choreography emerges in which bodies learn to navigate mobility in the absence of apparatus.

For over 27 years, Shannon has been creating groundbreaking choreographies of personal, political and cultural significance by exploring the social constructions that surround disabled bodies, and developing movement techniques that formulate virtuosic new mobilities. He also has a noted history of examining and experimenting with urban art forms through translating them into theatrical contexts, inventing audience solutions to protect them in their naturally occurring street environs and mixing them with circus arts.

  • Photos Coming Soon

Collaborators in Residence: Ron Chunn Jr., Teena Marie Custer and Staycee R. Pearl [Performers}, Cornelius Henke III [Projection Designer], Terry Valencheck [Video and Production Technician]. Slideshow photos by Chris Cameron 

World Premiere

Emily Johnson

Then a Cunning Voice
August 19
PS122 (NYC)


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