Art & Politics
Programs for High School Students
Youth/Student Activism

Bill Shannon is an internationally renowned interdisciplinary dance and media artist who defies definition and gravity. Through storytelling, dance, physical comedy, visual art and live video of street performances, Shannon shares with his audience how his dance/mobility form with crutches and a skateboard slowly evolved into a linguistic project. He documents how he created dance techniques  on crutches while performing, speaking and showing his work around the world.

Disabled since childhood, Shannon learned how to wield his crutches as tools of expression -- transforming his physical imperfections into an internationally celebrated innovation. He considers his work rooted in street culture and informed by the fine arts. His art has opened up a wide spectrum of philosophical and cultural notions of what it means to be limited and the politics of "help". Underlying he exposes a silent world of prejudice that disabled people encounter on a daily basis.

Over the past two decades Shannon’s installations, performances, choreography and video work have been presented nationally and internationally at numerous venues, festivals and events including, Sydney Opera House, Tate Liverpool Museum, NYC Town Hall, Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, The Holland Festival, Amsterdam, Temple Bar Dublin, Kiasma Museum Finland, Hirshhorn Museum and many more.

Shannon also completed a project with Cirque du Soleil where he choreographed an aerial duet and a solo on crutches for their 2002 production "Varekai," which continued to tour into 2013.

Shannon has been honored with a Newhouse Foundation Award, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and a Foundation for Contemporary Art Award, among others. He has also received support for his work from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Dance Project of the New England Foundation for the Arts, Jerome Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts,  Arts International: The Fund for U.S. Artists at International Festivals PA Council on the Arts and others.

Shannon also won Mantis Battle (Solo Category) in NYC in 2000, placed second in ProAms Florida (Abstract Category) and in 2002 was awarded Most Creative Street Dancer by the LA Urban Dance Festival.

Shannon holds a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.



The Condition Arriving (90 minutes)
"The Condition Arriving" is an entertaining yet academic video / lecture / monologue performance that details through physical and verbal storytelling the evolution of Shannon's invented movement form, The Shannon Technique. The Shannon Technique is at its root, a form of dance on crutches. Bill Shannon's practice and development of the Shannon Technique in public space necessitated the creation of an invented lexicon of terms strategies and phenomena to frame and classify various public reactions to him and his performance of dance. Thus the story of the evolution of the dance form, The Shannon Technique becomes a story about inventing strategies for dealing with peoples' hopes, assumptions, fears and designs. Each step of the way along his timeline of new moves and transformed mental states, Shannon will demonstrate physically how the moves looked. Essential to sharing the details of his more extreme movements and complex naming of sociological perspectives, Shannon will employ video analysis software to dissect his form and his audiences' reactions frame by frame as they were captured in public space. In short " The Condition Arriving" is an introduction to Bill Shannon's verbal and physical practice of dance and sociological anthropology.

Disability Politics (60 minutes)
This lecture explores the many contrasting layers of disabled representation in left, center and right spectrums of political discourse. Shannon's personal experience with multiple forms of activism and disability rights activism and his experience working within governmental programs to "service" disabled populations informs his arguments as to when and where progressive voices around issues critical to improving the life experience of disabled people need to be heard. This lecture discusses the walled garden of DARPA's Robotic Prosthetics for Wounded Warriors Program within a global context of war, famine, disease and economic exploitation of labor to illuminate where exactly "disability" is being made as opposed to being perceived as a matter of fate. Inspiring grassroots disabled maker activism, foreboding forays into transgenics, and the heated complexities of the right to die debate are used to illustrate the increasing irrelevance of left vs. right political delineation when applied to disabled issues.  

Skater Ethos and Disability Culture  (90 minutes)
This lecture focuses on the cultural sociological and personal contrasts and similarities between action sports and the disabled experience in public space. Drawing from lived experience at the heart of both the 1980's birth of skateboarding and breakdancing and the 1990s birth of disabled dance as a field Shannon discusses how the two seemingly disparate cultures have so much in common. From being driven to define ones own path through seemingly impossible physical odds to extending notions of rigor and determination far beyond any reasonable expectation, Shannon argues that people with disabilities are living the ultimate extreme sport of making life livable.


Translations Movement Workshop (disabled dance, dance and language - 2 days 10-4)
Translations is a dance workshop facilitated by Shannon designed for adults with physical disabilities. The workshop guides each participant into a conceptual framework of self-analysis of personal movement patterns. Once the conceptual framework is in place the work of developing a well-defined and personalized dance vocabulary is begun. The workshop includes demonstrations by facilitator Bill Shannon showing how his own personal movement vocabulary was born form the same process the workshop is based on. The workshop also includes experiential exercises, lectures, video screenings, group discussion and reading.  Translations is a multi-day workshop culminating in informal presentations from the participants.

A2B Media Workshop (multi-media art making, performance art, time based art - 2 days, 10-4)
This workshop guides students in the process of developing a conceptual framework for an inter-disciplinary performance/presentation that is meant to be realized in the street/public environment. The focus of the workshop process is on building worlds within which an alternate narrative can be nurtured and explored. The final goal of this workshop is to create a real or hypothetical work that expresses performance, video and music/sound as a single work of time based public art. This workshop involves experiential exercises, lectures, video screenings, group discussion and reading from historical and contemporary sources on the subject of public art, performance art and conceptual art.

Experimental Workshops (Dance, Culture (1 day, 12-6)
This workshop is designed for "urban" dancers and choreographers looking for fresh ideas outside the world of routines, skits and eight-counts. The focus of the workshop is on developing tools for building theatrical dance presentations and pushing the limits of the "urban" dance genre. This workshop involves experiential exercises, lectures, video screenings, group discussion and reading of material related to the history of the proscenium stage, the history of social dance, contemporary cultural norms within "street-dance" ( breaking, new school hip-hop, freestyle, house, lofting, jackin, boogaloo, popping, locking, top-rocking, krumping etc.) This workshop is for experienced choreographers and dancers looking for new direction and inspiration for theatrical and dance for video performance  conceptualization. This workshop takes place over two days with an overnight creative assignment.

Innovation and Accident (Performance Art, Philosophy - 3 days 10-4)
Using personal anecdote and practical application of theatrical methods, interdisciplinary dance and media artist Bill Shannon will teach creative movement as tool to intervene in given sociological, personal and political contexts.  Through lectures and "creative problem solving" Bill will help students create an "idea lab" that places value on the creative process - exploiting mistakes and accidents as pathways to invention and innovation.  This course will culminate in the public presentation of the results of this creative exploration.