Where is he now?: Bill Shannon

Bill Shannon’s artistry can vary movement to movement, even moment to moment. He glides, he skates, he dances. He choreographs and performs for theater and on the street. He breaks boundaries with video installations.

It’s a list that’s varied and unique and one that caught the attention of Chicago-based United States Artists, which has made him one of 45 fellows chosen to receive $50,000. Mr. Shannon received recognition in the dance category.

Dance doesn’t quite say it all, though.

“What I do is interdisciplinary in nature. I’m known for this virtuosic dance performance on crutches and a skateboard and for urban street style dance performances. But the work that I am doing and I think the reason USA Artists recognized my work was for dance and a lot of sociological street-performance material.”

The United States Artists press release describes the 47-year-old East Ender as “a conceptual, interdisciplinary performance and media artist who creates solo and group choreographies, wearable sculpture, video installation and performance art for galleries, theaters and the street.”

He has been a Guggenheim Fellow for dance and a Foundation for Contemporary Art Award Fellow for Performance, as well as an aerial choreographer for Cirque du Soleil. His video installations have been show at galleries and museums. He also created the touring piece “Traffic,” in which the audience follows him on a bus.

He is currently working on a design for wearable video masks as a fellow of the Frank-Ratchye Studio For Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University. Mr. Shannon also has a knack for physical comedy, which he hopes will land him a spot at the New York City Clown Theater Festival.

The Kelly Strayhorn Theater, where he has a residency as the Penn Avenue Creative Artist, has been one of his artistic homes. In May, he will premiere a work titled “Touch Update” there. That process began with a national award from the New England Foundation of the Arts to make a new dance piece, and support from the Heinz Endowments and the National Performance Network.

“All three of those have contributed to this one project that is having its premiere at the Kelly Strayhorn New Moves Festival,” Mr. Shannon said. “[KST executive director] Janera Solomon really advocating for the project is a big part of it, just for their administration to be behind the project.”

His works tend to flow into each other, he explained, giving as an example that he has created four works “just on the question of can street dance work in the theater?” That, in turn, grew out of his teenage days as a skateboarder and break dancer in the 1980s.

“Those cultural sensibilities, along with my disability, are factors that evolved in my work, along with visual art and video installation art,” he said.

Mr. Shannon uses crutches to alleviate pressure on his hips caused by a disease known as Legg-Calve-Perthes.

In his early days as a street performer, he called himself CrutchMaster, a name he would like to forget. He also was the subject of a documentary, “Crutch.”

His work as an artist is what he wants people to see, and it is what has brought him recognition such as the United States Artists prize. He said he is grateful because there are few awards for the arts “that would be comparable to a year’s basic income.”

When he got the call from Chicago, he at first didn’t pick up. It was a strange phone number, and he was on a three-city tour of Australia, lecturing, leading workshops, creating — business as usual for a most unusual artist.

{ SOURCE: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | https://goo.gl/WvmsSq }