The Prop Master

Consider the career options for a person with Legg-Calf Perthese disease. This rare form of arthritis affects the ball-and-socket joints of the hips, resulting in an inability to put any weight on your legs for anything but the briefest periods of time. Surely, work as a dancer and choreographer doesn't sound like the first-choice vocation for someone dealing with such a "disability."

Bill "CrutchMaster" Shannon has used crutches to get around since the age of 5. And in the years since then -- he's now in his early 30s -- Shannon found that he needed to come up with creative ways to deal with everyday movements, like using stairs or opening a door. As he grew older, this daily creativity born of necessity evolved into his own personal kind of self-expression.

And now, it's a performance. Shannon's show, which comes to the Valley this week, is based on breakdancing and features Shannon, a DJ mixing the music live and three additional dancers. Together, the ensemble performs a fast and flowing exhibition of moves to an ever-changing blend of current urban dance sounds. It all ends up in a classic break face-off with each dancer trying to top the others' steps.

The show is called The Art of Weightlessness, and the title is appropriate. All preconceptions of the clunky movements associated with crutches can be tossed away. Shannon's movement onstage approaches flight. Using specially designed U-bottomed steel crutches, he turns out moves that can make gymnasts hang their heads in shame. Aided by his use of a skateboard, he glides, slides and appears to defy gravity. He pivots, vaults, spins and leaps with a sense of grace and style. The show is alternately humorous and jaw-dropping. And above all, Shannon's dance is far from some novelty act. After decades of standing on his own for only moments at a time, he has created a completely unique form of performance art.

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David Gofstein