When I pay to see a performance I expect to witness a flawless product. Whether it be dance, song or theatre, I assume the artists are well-rehearsed and their pieces free of error.
This was not the case when I saw perform last Saturday night at the , yet I was anything but disappointed.
Born with a degenerative hip condition, Shannon incorporates elements of hip-hop dance, skateboarding and silent film acting into his performances, all while on crutches. That’s right, crutches.
Shannon was part of , presented in part by in conjunction with the . His solo show, , was a headliner.
Shannon’s disability is the focus of his narrative but not in the way you may expect. For part of his performance he sets up a laptop and projects images of his earlier street work on to a screen, describing the ways in which the public reacts to a disabled dancer.
Shannon used clips from the below video to illustrate this:
Later in his piece, under a single spotlight and to the beats of the show’s DJ, , he attempts different variations on his rendition of the , a common break dancing move. The audience witnesses both his successes and his failures, as Shannon admits that his show is largely influenced by his roots in freestyle dance.
“There is no offstage,” an exasperated Shannon yells to the audience as he lay on the ground beneath his fallen crutches.
Audience interaction is an important component of Shannon’s work. His show is laced with elements of comedy and he encourages cheering. When a women seated in the front row left early in his set, he interrupted his performance to mimic her exit, all to the laughter and clapping of a full house.
What I found most striking about Shannon is not just that he dances on crutches ( also does this), but that he uses his art form to challenge notions of mobility, and even disability.
Early in his show he questioned why exactly dancing on legs is the accepted norm, asking – albeit sarcastically – “Why’s she dancing on her legs again? If she’s not dancing on her arms, I’m not going to see it!”
Shannon skateboarded and danced around the stage for 90 minutes using his crutches as extensions of his body, a feat I doubt many other professional performers could accomplish. What’s disabled about that?