October 20, 2007
The Crutch Dancer
Today, I was inspired by Bill Shannon, who I'll refer to as the Crutch Dancer, mainly because as a dancer myself, it is what first resonates with me. Bill is much more than a dancer who uses crutches however. He is a conceptual, interdisciplinary dance and media artist who performs solo as well as with groups. Bill considers his work rooted in street/club culture.
Bill is a dancer who didn't want to give up dancing, so when his disability re-emerged later in his twenties (he's now 36), he created a new art form where crutches became an extension of his body and his art.
Performance art became a tool for him, not just to dance but to do things people do every day, like pick up a bottle off the ground and so on.
"Crutches are an extension of the body," says Bill. For someone Bill who learned about his disability and had to deal with it as a child, he was more rapidly and naturally able to embrace the disability culture, which doesn't say 'I give up, this sucks.'
You look at what you can do with your disability and the extensions you use when you're disabled to improve your life or simply have fun, i.e., this is what I can do on crutches, this is what I can do in a wheelchair and 'isn't this cool?'
As a kid, you play. Says Bill, "you're not stressing and thinking, oh my god, its over for me. You learn to play and this can extend into your daily life."
He also talked about what it feels like being treated as a spectacle in a public place as a disabled person, and how he decides to respond as a result. We also saw visual examples of peripheral fluxuation and inverse peripheral fluxuation -- again, responses directed from the non-disabled to the disabled person.
Lastly, we witnessed some of his performances on video, which included flying down a railing using his crutches as well as dancing down a series of stone steps and then moving onto a skateboard where he continued to combine hiphop-like movements on wheels.
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You might find this inspiring as well: Axis Dance Company in the East Bay is a professional dance company showcasing dancers with disabilities: http://www.axisdance.org/about.php
Posted by: Christine Herron | Oct 22, 2007 12:09:51 AM