Bill Shannon’s Window

This summer’s massive River to River Festival is in its final days. The last dance program of the season, Window, is being presented on Lower Broadway all this week at lunchtime.

Created by Bill Shannon, Windows is presented to two audiences simultaneously: pedestrians on the street and viewers observing through the windows of a nearby skyscraper.

The Step Fienz, a crew of breakdancers, accompany Shannon (also known as “the Crutchmaster”), as he performs on a skateboard and crutches, weaving in and out of traffic, flipping and spinning, startling drivers and engaging passers-by with his grace, athleticism and humor.

Those who entered the lofty viewing space  (located in an ordinary business office) were able to see live video closeups of the action below and listen to recorded music mixed with Shannon’s comments and street noise. The same music is played outside, but only on the dancers’ earpieces. 

Passers-by can’t hear the music, see the audience gathered at the office windows (unless they look up and squint), or view the cameras positioned above. As a result, most of the people on the street don’t realize they are witnessing (and participating in) a carefully-planned performance. The spontaneous interactions between the unsuspecting pedestrians and the dancers are, in and of themselves, vital parts of the show.

The crutch and skateboard, while important elements of the dance, are not simply used for dramatic effect. Shannon’s dance technique—known as the Shannon Technique—is one he invented out of necessity. Born with Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease (a rare hip deformity), the dancer and choreographer has spent most of his life on crutches.

He has traveled and performed around the world, won numerous awards for his work and choreographed Cirque de Soleil’s production, Varekai. A documentary about Shannon, entitled Crutch, is scheduled to premiere at film festivals this fall.

An audience gathers at the window
An audience gathers at the window

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Shannon skates around traffic

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He is joined by another skateboarder

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He lies on the sidewalk

Maneuvering with his crutches
Maneuvering with his crutches

Pedestrians walk by
Pedestrians walk by

A good samaritan stops to help
A good samaritan stops to assist

She
She “helps” him stand

Then wants to discuss religion
Then wants to discuss religion

More dancers join in
More dancers join in

The Step Fienz in action
The Step Fienz in action

Darting through the crowd
Darting through the crowd

Another attempted conversation
Another attempted conversation

Shannon aloft
Shannon aloft

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The finale

The company takes a bow
The company takes a bow

Bill Shannon
MySpace: Crutch
Village Voice: ‘Crutchmaster’ Takes Dance to the Next Level
Cirque du Soleil: Bill Shannon
Time Signature Productions: The Step Fienz
DJ Excess
MySpace: DJ Excess
River to River Festival
LMCC Sitelines: Window
The New Yorker: Window

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6 Responses to Bill Shannon’s Window

  1. moi says:

    Very inspiring….the things people can achieve if they put their mind and heart to it…add dollops of creativity too!!!

    Like

  2. Olivier says:

    de belles photos, et surtout une belle perspective de la fenetre, bonne idee

    beautiful photographs, and especially a beautiful prospect for the window, good idea

    Like

  3. Ruth says:

    I envy you in NY for all the variety you see. Never a dull moment. This guy really is something, what an inspiration.

    Like

  4. Love your documentary of the event.

    Like

  5. photowannabe says:

    I thought I had commented on this but I guess not.
    What an interesting performance. I love NY and its variety and individualistic spirit.

    Like

  6. zigzagzany says:

    This is great. New York affords so many opportunities to see performance everywhere!

    Like

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