When Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli created ILL-Abilities, a crew of differently-abled, international b-boys, he assumed that everyone in the crew shared the same vision as him. Working with seven other breakdancers with various first languages and numerous physical disabilities, however, taught Patuelli the importance of understanding and adaptability. While discussing the group’s past with me, Patuelli stated that this past year in particular has been the group’s best in terms of communication. For its tenth anniversary, and the first time in their history, every ILL-Abilities dancer performed together on Saturday in No Limits X Anniversary. Held in Edifice Wilder, the event also featured two dance battles, judged by top hip hop dancers. In the first battle, dancers of all ages and abilities spun a wheel to determine a constraining prop to move with. In the second battle, disabled amateurs and non-disabled professionals choreographed collaboratively.
Patuelli is adept at working through barriers. He was born with Arthrogryposis, which limits joint movement, so he sometimes uses crutches to dance and walk. Throughout childhood, Montreal-born Patuelli engaged in numerous athletics alongside non-disabled peers and found his stride breakdancing when he was fifteen. He has since generated a following from breakdance competitions; major T.V. appearances; global performances; and preeminent awards, including the Governor General-presented Meritorious Service Medal. Despite his universal exaltation, Patuelli is most nervous on his home stage. More familiar eyes watch him, he says, and he wants to make them all proud.
Working with seven other breakdancers with various first languages and numerous physical disabilities, however, taught Patuelli the importance of understanding and adaptability.
Patuelli has succeeded in this, most recently by teaching National Centre for Dance Therapy (a Les Grands Ballets division)’s newest class, Street Dance, with his wife. “Not only are they dance classes, they’re life classes,” Patuelli said. “They’re an opportunity for students to express themselves to the fullest extent and to embrace their differences and be proud of their bodies and who they are. We really allow the energy of the students to help direct where we’re gonna take the class.”
This in-studio reciprocal inspiration is similar to what No Limits X Anniversary intended to replicate for its audience and participants. “A successful event would be having people of all ages, all abilities, dancers of all different genres come together to celebrate, and leave the venue with a big smile and a boost of energy and confidence in themselves,” Patuelli said.
An equally enduring impact could be the merging of ballet and hip hop; ILL-Abilities’ presence in Les Grands Ballets’ venue is the first of its kind. Patuelli expects that this is a leading step in the exploration of melding the two styles in a beautiful way. The “No Excuses, No Limits” mantra of Patuelli and his programs truly pushes the traditional boundaries of dance and human capability. In his personal life, Patuelli has upheld his lifelong talent for adjustability. Coming straight from a two-week tour in Florida, he was physically exhausted but determined to deliver his message on Saturday.
“The moments when it is too much, I try to take a step back and look at the big picture of things, take a lot of big deep breaths, and learn to handle what I can, when I can,” Patuelli said. “If I face any moments where I feel like I can’t, then I try to find a solution or an adaptation to be able to not let it stop me from doing what I want.”
While Patuelli expressed that he still feels much like a student in his artistic and physical capabilities, he also understands that learning is all about communication. By making inclusivity of regional, ability, and age disparities a priority in his outreach, Patuelli encourages the world to drop all excuses and push beyond all limits.