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WhatIsWhat 1.0 2003




Bill Shannon ( he, him) 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 United States Artist Award in Dance, 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 premiered at Kelly Strayhorn Theater's NewMoves Contemporary Dance Festival in Pittsburgh May 11 and 12, 2018 then went on to tour PAinted Bride Arts, Dance Place DC and New York Live Arts in Philadelphia. In 2019 Bill is continuing to pursue touring for his group work Touch Update and his solo dance theater work Maker Moves. He continues to enjoy facilitating workshops and classes while also attending underground dance events and pulling off the occasional impromptu street performance.


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This Work, Bio, by Bill Shannon is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA license.