Art from All Angles: Dancer and Ceramicist Kevin Shannon Visits Campus for Weeklong Residency

This article originally appeared in the Willistonian

Williston recently welcomed Kevin Shannon to campus through the Grum Project, where he shared his skill in both dance and ceramics.

Shannon was on campus from Monday, April 3 through April 8.  He spent all his time in Reed, with class days  devoted to ceramics students and the afternoons crafting a piece for the Dance Ensemble’s Spring Show.

While teaching classes, he was precise with details and encouraged his students. His choreography culminated a series of small, intricate moves that translated into a work of dancers united together in movement.  Shannon used many metaphors and similes to get the dancers engaged and understand his technique.

Shannon, originally from Baltimore Md., started his dance career tap dancing.  He then moved into other styles and went to The Julliard School, where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts.  Shannon now lives in Chicago where he danced with Hubbard Street Dance for 15 years.

Shannon told The Willistonian that much of his artistic career was inspired by his family around him.

“My nana would show me old films [and] my parents weren’t artists, but they were very artistic,” he said. “My aunt was the who took me to my dance class because my parents were working all the time, [my aunt] was unable to dance when she was younger, so she always wanted me to dance.”

His aunt, additionally, was the one who put him into his first ceramics class.

Director of Dance at Williston, Noel St. Jean, first found Shannon through Hubbard Street.

“I asked myself ‘What company would be a dream come true to work with?’ The answer is Hubbard Street. I went to a performance of the company when I was 12 [and] it was my first ever live dance concert experience and it was inspirational,” she said.

As for his other passion, ceramics, he started when he was young and worked on it for many years.  He both learned and taught at the Art Institute of Chicago. In Ms. Staples’ F block ceramics class, Shannon used metaphors to help the students understand how he best creates pieces.

Shannon sees a lot of intersectionality between his two artistic passions.

“I thought there was a lot of relationship [between] dance and ceramics, there’s a lot of movement, and form, and shape, it’s a very 3D experience,” he said. “That was very inspiring to me.”

“In dance you have a lot of discipline,” he added. “You’re taking so many different classes. In ceramics I didn’t have the same sort of discipline, but I forced myself to, there’s a lot of self-discipline and focus.”

Staples admires Shannon’s qualities as both an artist and educator.

“Kevin is very kind, patient, and passionate about his work,” she said.  “For someone to work as an educator, especially with young students, you have to have these qualities.”

St. Jean knew Shannon would be a good fit because of his multiple talents.

“Williston is a place where students are encouraged to explore their creativity and to find connections between their educational experiences to cultivate knowledge. I felt that Kevin fit those ideals and would offer the community a reach experience,” she said. “[His] experience in the dance world is vast.  I hope that he will share his knowledge and perspectives with the ensemble and give them a glimpse into the concert dance world.”

Shannon hopes that his week spent on campus will inspire all the students he worked with the think different.

“I hope you get to taste a little bit of all these different things [in dance] and I hope that something within all of those, including ceramics, that something inspires the dancers and ceramic artists to think about art differently or life different,” he said.