Ill Abilities is an international breakdance crew comprised of differently-abled members Lazylegz, Checho, Kujo, Redo and Tommy Guns. Each of the dancers have vastly different bodies with diverse capabilities and limitations, that come together to produce an awesome and inspiring show.
Ringleader Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli, for example, was born with arthrogryposis, a rare congenital condition that affects bone structure and can limit muscular development; in his case, in the legs. But if you’ve ever seen him dance — and I highly recommend you do — you’ll be dazzled.
“Our whole motto has been, ‘no excuses, no limits,’” says Patuelli. “The idea of just adapting and always finding a way. I think it’s probably why we gel so well. We all have completely different stories, we all have completely different backgrounds, but we found a way to adapt in a shared fashion, which is dance, and we excel at it.”
While Ill Abilities started out on the competitive b-boy circuit, they quickly realized their unique connection with audiences worked both to inspire people and create awareness about physical diversity, and so the group shifted focus toward becoming a motivational crew. This weekend marks the group’s five-year anniversary, and to celebrate, they’re staging a two-day event called “No Limits,” with a fundraiser gala, performances and a b-boy battle.
The fundraiser is intended to help the far-flung crew get together to practice more often. “I try to bring the guys here as much as possible so we have more time to rehearse and create movement and do research into what kinds of choreography and movements we can do together,” says Patuelli. “We’re all so unique, so that’s the biggest challenge.”
Since each of the five tightly-knit crew member’s bodies work so differently, their choreographies must account for it. “A very common move is a leg sweep; it’s also known as a helicopter. Every single one of us does it completely differently. In our new choreography, there’s a moment where you see us doing this leg sweep, and I feel like it looks really beautiful, because it really shows that we’re all in unison, but we’re not at all.”
This embrace of diversity is central to Ill Abilities’ style, taking something that is often perceived to be a disability or disadvantage and making the show more compelling and powerful for it, using the uniqueness and diversity of their bodies to make their choreographies exceptional.
When the group works on new routines, Patuelli says, “we start with what moves we can do and what moves we can’t. Like, one guy can’t lift his legs up, while another guy is missing a leg and another one can’t hear the music, so we’ve got to make sure that he can hit the beats. We’re catering each choreography to the individual limitations, but at the same time, putting a spin to it, saying that there are no limitations. Like, yeah, maybe you can’t do this, but there’s a way to do it, and you do it your own way.” ■
“A Night of Inspiration,” Ill Abilities’ five year anniversary celebration and fundraiser gala, takes place Oct. 19 at Gésu (1202 Bleury), 7 p.m., $21.50-$26.50. The No Limits crew battle takes place Oct. 20 at Côte-des-Neiges Community Centre (5347 Côte-des-Neiges), 3–7 p.m., $10