Photograph by Daishiro Futakami courtesy Ill-Abilities.
Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli created the Ill-Abilities dance company in 2007. The motto of the crew of differently abled break dancers: “No excuses, no limits.” Ill-Abilities will perform at the Kennedy Center Family Theater this weekend, and dancers will share their stories as well as their moves.
Where did the idea for Ill-Abilities come from?
At the time I was a very competitive breaker. I was traveling around the world in a lot of competitions. And there was this trend called “super crew,” which is basically like all-star teams. They would take the best members of different crews and they would fuse together for specific (dance) battles. I was like, ‘There aren’t many dancers with disabilities that are competing at the high level.” So I thought, “Why don’t we make an all-star team?” I realized that our power goes beyond just competing and performing, that there was, like, a message that we had.
What’s it like to work with this group of dancers?
It’s a huge gift. I feel so honored each time to be on this stage. I get emotional, and the guys make fun of me because I’m an emotional roller coaster. I just realized how beautiful it is. We’ve toured and performed in over 25 countries together. It’s a huge honor to be able to say we’ve traveled the world together with your best friends. A lot of people come up to me and say, “I like your work,” but I don’t really consider it work. I consider it just a weekend with my friends when we’re performing.
Do you have a favorite audience reaction you’ve received from one of your shows?
We did a public school performance in Canada this past fall. We received a personal message from a class; it was a student writing on behalf of the whole class. They said “We wanted to share this story with you.” One student, who was known to be the bully of the school, had got up in front of the class and apologized to all of the students for being a jerk and for the way he treated certain people. He said, after seeing the Ill-Abilities show, that he wanted to apologize and start over. And it was a really powerful message that we received.
Our message is “No excuses, no limits.” I’m not promoting this, but often we’ll get emails or pictures sent to us where people actually tattooed “No excuses, no limits” on their body after seeing our performance. So the message isn’t just being shared when we’re together as a crew, it’s being shared all the time.
We want to become a crew that lasts. We want to have the same weight as Cirque du Soleil or Pilobolus. So we’re currently pushing ourselves to create more complex choreographies. Being here at the Kennedy Center is a huge, huge honor for us. And we understand the symbolism, how iconic it is to perform on this stage and in this theater.
Ill-Abilities performs January 13-15 at the Kennedy Center, with a sensory-friendly performance at 1:30 PM on January 15. Tickets are $20.