ILL-Abilities is an International group comprised of B‑boys that have overcome extraordinary challenges to become some of the best dancers in the world: Canada, Chile, Holland, and U.S.A. Originally created in 2007 with the idea of being a “Super Crew” of disabled dancers, it is now becoming a global movement helping to spread the message: No Excuses, No Limits. ILL-Abilities’ mission is to redefine society’s view of disability, promote empowerment, and encourage limitless possibilities through motivational entertainment.
I Am Hip Hop meet with Luca Patuelli from ILL- Abilities to discuss the world of dance and Breakin’ Convention!
Q. How did it all begin?
Ill-abilities is an international crew that I first put together in 2007 when I began to meet the other dancers in competitions. I used to skateboard (on my knees) when I was younger but unfortunately could no longer skate after I had surgery so I was looking for something new to do. I then discovered breakin’ and found that I had an advantage because it uses a lot of upper body strength.
I wanted to show the world that anything is possible so put everyone together to start competing in bboy competitions. We then realised that the crew was about much more than dance and so began motivational speaking at events and schools to promote a positive message. The same with Hip Hop – its purpose became to create something from nothing with an aspect of making it all work which is what I think we’ve done as a crew.
Q. So who would you say is your target audience?
Our target market is vague because its not just those who have a disability, anyone can enjoy and relate to what we do. I see it as everyone has a disability in one form or another whether it’s physical or emotional so it’s for everyone.
Q. Tell me about your show at Breakin’ Convention?
We’re doing two shows this year — A shorter version of our more popular show ‘No Limits’ and a longer version of a show called ‘Limitless’. They’re both pieced together by our individual stories. Because we’re all differently abled the choreography is unique and there’s some adapting involved, which is beautiful to watch. We always joke that when the 5 of us are together we form the strength and body of 3 people!
Q. What does Breakin’ Convention mean to you?
Its our first introduction to the UK and because its showcasing crews from all over the world it becomes this great celebration of theatrical dance. It’s really an aspect of sharing and watching each others work. There’s such an openness about the event. We’ve also learnt as a crew about the importance of good music and conveying emotion in our performance because of Breakin’ Convention.
Q. Have you had much prejudice growing up?
Each of us have experienced different things. For examply ‘Kujo’ (Jacob) tried to hide the fact that he was deaf when he was growing up and ‘Guns’ (Tommy) came grew up in care having been fostered so compared himself to other people. This is all because of a fear of what others thought. But we’ve overcome many obstacles as a group, and we try to tell these individual stories through our work. We’ve learnt a lot about each other.
Q. Do you feel like there’s been anything in society which has helped to change those prejudices. The Paralympics for example.
As I’ve grown up I’ve noticed that society is slowly becoming more accepting. But before I performed in the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics opening ceremony I felt that disabilities were hidden and talking about it was always brushed under the carpet. After that performance and the Paralympics in Britain I’ve seen a slow change. Because sharing a stage with so many others you see no difference as we’re all in it together. Education is key when it comes to talking about it.
On a last note I found Luca to be extremely inspiring and look forward to watching Ill-abilities perform. Here’s a great quote about their name from their website:
In the context of hip-hop culture, it’s usual to take something negative and make it positive. For example; bad, nasty, mean, ill, sick, all are commonly considered compliments when used to describe a person, group, and/or a situation.
That being said, when the word “ill” is used as an adjective, instead of meaning “sick” or “not well,” it actually describes something that is either incredible, amazing, intricate, or super talented. Hence, the word “Disability” can often be used to describe one’s (negative) limitations, so we created the term “ILL-Ability” (ILL-Abilities™) to describe our (positive) capabilities.
Details of their show at Breakin Convention can be found here:
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