Own the Floor
Years ago, 3 guys walked into a bar. One of those guys was B-Boy (breakdancer) Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli. He was greeted with blaring hip hop music and a large circle of dancers. Luca, born and raised in Montreal, Canada, lived with arthrogryposis or curved joints his entire life. He’s far too familiar with surgery rooms, but that night there were no tables or doctors – only the floor. While his friends traveled by foot and car, Luca used a skateboard for transportation. His legs were weak and unable to carry him; his physical condition was likened to sclerosis. Luca’s heart was stronger.
He dragged himself across the bar floor, through the clamorous crowd, and to the middle of the dance circle. He paused. His head moved forward and back rhythmically. Luca assumed a push-up position and lifted his body off the ground (legs and all). [Note: In the break dancing world this move is called the U.F.O, an advanced level feat requiring body strength and balance. In most of our worlds the move is called: “Yeah, I couldn’t do that if you paid me!”] The crowd went out of their minds with deafening screams. After collecting pats on the back, Luca returned to his friends with a cheeky smile. He was 15 years old.
If you’ve ever been to a New York City subway station, you’ve probably seen them. Artists who mesmerize audiences with backflips, kickflips, body waves, and moonwalks. Breakdancers move and they move us. We tip our hats or toss a few dollars in a large empty paint bucket: we leave gratitude. Sometimes, we are unaware of the grueling work it took them to attain headspin-on- cardboard fame.
What about the dancer whose determination and innovation has allowed them to move fantastically through on a 3×3 piece of cardboard and life just the same? Luca shared his answer on Thursday, October 9, 2014 in a Mount St. Mary’s University auditorium. At the event sponsored by the Mount’s Inclusive Excellence Committee and Center for Student Diversity, Luca danced and spoke and charmed and inspired. His message: find your own way to move.
Luca heads a breakdancing crew called Illabilities. They’ve replaced the bad in the word disability, with the word “ill” -a positive adjective in the hip hop world meaning: really cool.
Breath, Stretch, Shake
How often do we let what limits us hold us back from reaching our potential? What of the students we serve who come into our offices with limits as high as the ceiling? We can help them to discover creative solutions to some of their issues. No, every issue is not simple. Every problem is not solved through conversation. But, it doesn’t mean writing off the dream because of the obstacle. I had my own limits of coming from a low socioeconomic status, but, I had great mentors to help me think outside of the box. They motivated me to seek out free and inexpensive activities. They wouldn’t allow my financial limits to take away from my college experience. Luca says, “No Excuses, No Limits”. It’s not to suggest we keep quiet about our grievances or ignore the challenges we face. Rather, we notice our opportunities to be resourceful, to push ourselves in another direction, and to enter into our own dance circles and show the crowd how we move. There’s more than one way of moving.
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When Luca isn’t touring internationally, teaching children with disabilities how to dance through specialized programs, or making a guest appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show, he is visiting schools and letting students know a lot of what they need is inside them regardless of their limiting situations. Ever since the night at the bar, Luca has challenged himself to discover the footwork that works for him, with or without forearm crutches.