Watching "window" by bill shannon

Watching “window” by bill shannon

Originally uploaded by swan lake samba girl via mobile.

This was so cool! Review to come. Definitely try to go if you can!

Okay, now that I’m back at my desk I can write more. Bill Shannon’s “Window” is the last of the works shown as part of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s “Sitelines” series (consisting of site-specific dance performances) in its “River to River Festival” for this year. (“River to River” takes place downtown each summer). The two others I was able to see, I blogged about here and here.

I really really liked “Window.” Bill Shannon is a disabled dance / conceptual artist who uses crutches. (If you’re in L.A. right now, he is one of the performers included in the David Michalek “Slow Dancing films” exhibit.) Here he and three other men — one wearing black pants, top and hood, one wearing all white, and one dressed in a business suit — performed break-dance and hip-hop out on Liberty Park Plaza while Shannon, skateboarding on crutches, zoomed around on the streets surrounding the park. At points Shannon would skate into the park and dance, very well mind you, on the crutches.

There were two sets of audiences: the random passersby in the park and on the street who got caught up in all the commotion; and us, those who RSVP’d to the event through lmcc’s website and were escorted into the 8th floor of the high-rise at 140 Broadway, where, amongst the bemused real-estate brokers who regularly inhabit the office, watched the scene down below through the window. A couple of camera people outside filmed the performances by Shannon and the three others and those films were projected live onto four screens inside, where we stood. One screen was set up in such a way that it would reflect on the ceiling, where you got kind of an upside-down version of what was going on outside. The filmmakers also played with the projections a bit so that the colors of the dancers’ clothing would change, or, at points, the dancers would be projected onto a different background; at times the images looked rather 3D. So, you had your choice of watching what was actually going on outside through the window, or the way it was projected onto the screen, as intermediated by the filmmakers.

They also had speakers set up inside, which played a variety of hip hop, techno and pop music. Shannon had headphones bearing a small microphone so he danced to the music and interacted with us through the mike.

I preferred watching what was actually going on through the window, partly because, Liberty Park being so big and crowded, everytime I took my eyes off of Shannon, I lost him. I also found it more interesting seeing how normal everyday besuited business people and tourists, not expecting to see a show — and a rather odd one at that (I didn’t see any speakers down there so assumed they couldn’t hear the music and only saw a bunch of guys rocking out to silence), interacted with him. Of course this being New York, most pretended not to notice him at all, although you could kind of see them spying him out of the corner of their eyes. They didn’t have the roads blocked off and at one point I thought he may be hit by a large white van barrelling down Liberty Street, but the driver thankfully saw the crazy guy bopping around on crutches whilst skateboarding and slowed to a stop. “Whoaaa” Shannon sang over the speakers.

At the beginning, Shannon looked up at us and called out, “How do you put rhythm into a city? How do you make a city come alive?” while clapping his hands above his head and shaking his hips to the percussion like a rock star. There was something at first eery but eventually comforting about watching him rockingly skateboard around what was once a triage unit, the construction site that was once Ground Zero and before that the World Trade Center diagonally behind him.


  1. dear samba girl,
    thanks to my google alerts i found out about your blogging of my public performace work.. window. i sincerely apprectiate your posting a reaction to the work because as it stands now the piece was not reviewed. It was supposed to be reviewed by a major publication in nyc but through a series of mishaps the dance critic never made it to the site. fyi it was a very challenging piece to pull off due to our limited access to the 8th floor location and our dependence on wireless video and audio transmission to make the piece work. bandwith in downtown manhattan a block form ground zero is very crowded.. and the distances we were transmitting across were laden with interference.. i also wanted to mention that the work was not designed to be experienced in the park but above it looking over it. your experiences in the park were in keeping with the idea that we did not want the reactions from pedestrians to be disruptive. we wanted the street to remain “authentic” as possible.. thus no music or big props. we still did attract attention but without the music the attention tended to be fleeting. like you said the experience was not as “performancey” which (your right) was the point. here is a link to an rjd2 video i was recently featured in. thanks again for blogging window..


  2. You’re welcome, and thanks for commenting, Mr. Shannon! I really enjoyed the performance from the 8th floor; I went back again just to see what it was like from downstairs, but knew it was meant to be experienced from up above.

    I know, I saw the name of that person who was supposed to review it on the RSVP list, not far above my own, but couldn’t figure out what happened when no one took the seat designated “press.” I thought he may have reserved his own private viewing area but when I looked for the review and never saw it I figured he just didn’t make it. I was disappointed too — it would have been fun to stand next to him to watch a performance and then read what he thought!

    Well, I’m glad I did a little write-up. Thanks for the YouTube link and I look forward to your future work!

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