After the last post where I mentioned RJD2, it got me thinking. I vaguely recalled seeing a pretty crazy video for RJD2’s track “Work it Out” and decided to go check it out.
After you’ve seen it, you’ll understand my amazement. The guy dancing around on those crutches is Bill Shannon, an artist/bboy/crutchdancer. Besides the obvious cool factor of his dancing ability, there lies a pretty interesting philosophy.
He really seems to really believe in this notion that his style here helps break down people’s perceptions of disability. I guess it’s working, since those who watch him perform tend to have some pretty strong reactions. In fact, in that RJD2 video above, watching that guy chase him around on the stairs trying to “help” him is a pretty good example of the way most people react. Below is a mini-documentary about Bill and his chosen artform.
He mentions that people will literally drop what they’re doing to run and help him, crossing busy streets just to open doors for him. He goes on to say that the “good samaritanism” that people have can actually be a problem. This is actually a common argument that’s brought up by advocates for disability rights. I think the term they use is positive discrimination, where good intentioned acts (like offering to push someone in a wheelchair) can have the effect of of offending the person you’re trying to help. It’s the presumption of disability that can be most offensive, and Bill seems to do a good job of bringing this out in people.
As far as I understand, he is able to walk without the crutches, which has really brought some controversy. People who see him perform in public often end up reacting pretty strongly because they occasionally think he’s faking the need to use them. Plus, the most controversial part of his act, in my opinion, is a staged fall that he ends with. Basically, after a performance on the street, he’ll crumple to the ground. This obviously makes people worry, so they rush to help him. He claims it challenges his own assumptions of who they are, but I’m not 100% on that one.
Either way, check out the documentary below at around the 5 minute mark for his take on the whole subject.