AOW: Remix | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The idea of dancing hip-hop on crutches is mind-boggling. Born with a degenerative bone disease that kept him in braces and on crutches as a child and again after the age of 23, Bill Shannon was able to learn modified forms of break dancing and skateboarding in the respite he had from the disease. He did street performances while a student at the School of the Art Institute, and he's now showcasing his unique approach to dance in such pieces as The Art of Weightlessness, the basis for AOW: Remix. The Art of Weightlessness, which I watched on tape, juxtaposes the dancing of a New York freestyle group, the Step Fenz Crew, with Shannon's ways of moving. The evening-length work is rather artlessly structured to reveal his transformation from disabled freak to differently abled performer: he first appears hanging from his crutches in almost Christlike fashion, the hood of his jacket pulled over his head and cinched tight so that he's a kind of featureless monster. Later he lies on the floor, barely able to raise himself above it, and later still he flies around the stage on a skateboard, crutches propelling and directing his movement like giant wings. These bits alternate with sections by the able-bodied dancers, and the contrast enhances our wonderment at their strength, swiftness, and freedom from gravity. Finally Shannon joins the others in a semicircle and they take turns soloing, showing off the skills they've perfected according to their abilities. The message is predictable, the structure naively episodic, and the choreography uninspired in the modern-dance sections, but the physical feats can be astonishing. DJ Excess spins, and video projections have been added to the remix. Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, 773-722-5463 or 312-902-1500. Opens Thursday, December 5, 7:30 PM. Through December 9: Friday-Saturday, December 6-7, 8 PM; Sunday, December 9, 3 PM. $20-$25. Note: Shannon will hold a "video dissection and discussion" at 4:30 PM Wednesday, December 4, at the School of the Art Institute, Columbus Auditorium, 280 S. Columbus Dr.; $5.

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