When Luca Patuelli (a.k.a Lazy Legz) enters the break-dance circle on forearm crutches, a feeling of surprise and worry runs through him. “Every time I walk into a circle I’m worried I’ll hurt myself.”
Suddenly he’s swinging his legs in and around his crutches, swinging back and forth and then horizontally to the floor.
He throws them away, landing on his hands, supporting his body only with his bulging, muscular arms, swaying and crawling forward.
Patuelli has arthrogryposis, a muscle disorder that causes multiple joint contractures at birth.
The disease can affect the whole body, but in Patuelli’s case it’s only his legs, which he has limited use of.
Luckily for him, break-dancing is a skill that involves a lot of arm work, with your legs reaching for the sky, not the ground.
Dance is his passion in life.
“It clears your mind. You’re not worried about exams or your girlfriend being mad at you.”
He’s been break-dancing since he was 15 and now, at 22, is a self-acclaimed B-boy.
“You do it to impress girls at first. I believe I became a B-boy two years ago. Once you become a B-boy you realize why you’re doing it.”
He dances with the Illmatic Styles crew, one of the best in Montreal and in Canada.
The crew has participated in contests all over the country and the U.S. and recently has been asked to perform on America’s Got Talent.
“I like them because they’re creative. They work a lot on group routines. It’s like a brotherhood,” he said.
Although Patuelli implied the partnership may not be forever. “I know I want to take it a lot further than some of them.”
Patuelli’s resume is lengthy. He has appeared on NBC’s Today show twice. Once as a chosen ‘Person of the Year.’ He was featured in an episode of MuchMusic’s Music is My Life series profiling people who have overcome hardship with the help of music.
He has been profiled on CBC’s The Hour, in numerous newspapers and was also featured in a Korean documentary.
He won the absolute Canadian B-boy of the year award and has traveled all over the world from Paris, to Los Angeles to Rome to dance. Patuelli also works as a motivational speaker at conferences and elementary schools.
He has appeared in a public service announcement sponsored by Montreal’s CHUM to motivate people with disabilities to pursue challenging careers. He also studies Marketing at Concordia University.
His dream is to create a team of disabled break dancers, called ‘Ill abilities.’
He’s in contact with a disabled break-dancer in Chile and two in France whom he met over the Internet.
When people think of disabled break-dancers, he said, “I want the first name for them to think of to be Lazy Legz.”
Patuelli was given his nickname by a friend and picked it up. He likes it because it pokes fun at his disability.
“It shows that I’m open,” he said. His slogan on his site and his business card reads: “It’s about taking the bad and making it good.”
“There is time of sorrow,” he said, “but you can’t let that take over your life. I’m extremely fortunate to have my parents and my brother. They never let me feel disabled. It’s really all in the people around you.”
His parents haven’t always supported his break-dancing, especially after he broke his leg five years ago at a competition.
“It took a lot out of them,” he said. “But now they support me.”
He’s been working with a physical therapist to gain more feeling in the muscles in his legs.
“I’m doing a lot more than I thought I would,” he said.
Patuelli was with Illmatic Styles in Toronto this past weekend to participate in B-boy Unit Canada.
If they win the competition, they go to Korea to participate in the International Competition against dance crews from all over the world.
Patuelli thinks they’ve got a good shot in Toronto. “It’s our time to shine.”