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Flash Review 2, 12-11:
Shannon Leans on Samaritans
By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2000 Maura Nguyen Donohue
Bill Shannon, a.k.a.
Crutchmaster, is a challenge. He challenges the modern dance concert
stage in Saturday night's performance of "Old Rain," seen at P.S.
122's second floor theater, and challenges our notions of good Samaritans
a little later Saturday night, now downstairs, in his "point and
click" video presentation "Regarding the Fall." He is a provocateur,
and I happily admit I have been provoked into a heavy bout of thinkin.'
It's a delight to again
witness Shannon gliding across the stage, having first seen him
at an improvisation concert a few years ago. The wings of his custom-designed
crutches allow him to slow time and suspend motion midstream. Though
"Old Rain" reveals a great amount of personal pain, Shannon still
gives us bipeds, at least primarily bipeds, air time to envy. His
hips are unable to support his torso due to a rare disease, but
his legs work. Paired with the strength of his upper body and NoriCat's
rounded-edge crutches, he's got the speed and grace of a gazelle.
The scope of his artistic
expression also includes spoken word, drawings, video and digital
art. "Old Rain" included a mix of performers, most notably Terry
Carr "Cebout," who very adeptly showed how much movement can take
place when you're dancing on your hands; the smooth floor work of
Fernando Barreto "Reveal"; and Yazoshiro "Ishiroc" Ishi's fancy
footwork. Shannon's slow, crumpled solo, set to the sound of rain
and DJ Richie D. Tempo's evocative live mixing, expressed intense
pain and struggle. The contortions of face and body as he makes
his way out of his raincoat resembled a Butoh scene. "Old Rain"
is full of dark mystery, seductive bass riffs, the lulling sound
of rain and images of resurrection before its final celebration
of movement and Shannon's eventual collapse to the ground.
The dancing is exciting,
but there was more than one occasion where I was just waiting for
something to happen. I've witnessed this before when street performers
bring their work to the concert stage. In a theater, watching a
couple guys throw down a couple moves in between lots of half-hearted
walking around each other doesn't work. That pace works when you're
just jamming, but within the context of a modern dance concert it
becomes dead space. However, when "Old Rain" is moving, it is cooking.
Shannon serves as an
excellent example for thinking outside the box and that is meant
in the most unsentimental, none-life-gives-you-lemons-you-make-lemonade,
way. He is the perfect embodiment of the politically correct term
I was force fed in college: Bill Shannon is exactly "differently-abled."
Earlier this fall I watched a young boy perform on crutches with
Everett Dance Theater. He'd broken his leg a few weeks before the
show and had been told he wouldn't be able to perform. But he'd
recently worked with Shannon and thanks to that example wouldn't
let himself be dis-abled. Which brings me to "Regarding the Fall."
Though it was extremely humorous, I left with the sense of anger.
Not the kind of anger we'd associate with a violent rage but rather
that long-term companion familiar to anyone who has been marked
by society for failure. Removing the specifics of some of the interactions
and the visuals, I recognized Shannon's reflections and complaints
as similar to many shared by members of other marginalized communities,
i.e. women and people of color. Maybe it's just me.... Maybe the
"able-bodied" white guys in the audience think he is a mean, whiny
brat who belittles the kindness of strangers and should be thankful
for what help he gets. But I found Shannon's well-spoken and well-thought
observations on the interpersonal and sociological aspects of good
samaritanism to further affirm something I already believe. There
is no such thing as an unselfish act. Remember, gratitude is a debt.
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