The Transporter

'Crutchmaster' Takes Dance to the Next Level

His "Shannon technique" breaks down ways to move with four "legs." "It has to do with handling the metal weight of the crutch. It's utilitarian in nature. My moves are like solutions," he says. To do a flare—a break-dancing step where the arms hold the body's weight as the legs swing like pendulums—Shannon had to re-examine the physics of the movement: "There was a period where I had to think out the relationship to the ground. On crutches I'm three feet off the floor instead of an arm's length."

His moves include "in the saddle," a standing position, armpits on the crutches, hands on the bars; and "high-mids," where the armpits are over the hand-bars. "Finger flip," a term borrowed from skater lingo, describes the threading of the hand through the crutch and wrapping the index finger around the vertical bar. "Floor-work" refers to any time the tips of the crutches are off the floor. "Aerial" describes a move where one tip is on the floor and everything else is elevated. "Pathos" borrows from the B-boying hand-on-head pose, but for Shannon the gaze is downward.

How does he choreograph? "Sometimes a move spontaneously combusts—kaboom!—you just fucking come up with a move that happens. When you've got four extensions of your body going on, chance encounters are high." He says most people think: "If you look like you're having too much fun, it can't be real."

Bill Shannon hits the street on customized rocker-bottoms and a skateboard. He estimates the cost of assembling the shock-absorbing crutches at between $500 and $1000
photo: Sylvia Plachy
Bill Shannon hits the street on customized rocker-bottoms and a skateboard. He estimates the cost of assembling the shock-absorbing crutches at between $500 and $1000

When a Chicago critic called him a "disabled freak," Shannon picked up the phone and "schooled" her about disability. His condition is not a choice, and his movements are not tricks set up to dazzle. Most artists fabricate environments to make us see, think, react. With Shannon, there is no pretending. His performances show us the person: "My shit is profoundly real."


Shannon's AOW: Remix with Step Fenz Crew plays Dance Theater Workshop January 21, 22, 30, and 31 and February 8 at 7, and February 9 at 2. He can be seen on Bravo Mondays at 9; see bravotv.com/cirque/about.php.

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