Luca 'Lazylegz' Patuelli
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Luca 'Lazylegz' Patuelli

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The best kept secret in music


"Disabled breakdancer creates buzz after Paralympic opening performance"

VACOUVER, B.C. - When Luca Patuelli propelled himself on his crutches into the cavernous and sold-out stadium, he was, from the vantage of many people in the seats, tiny and disabled.

But when the pulsing beat throbbed into music at the opening ceremonies for the Paralympic Games, Patuelli's centre-stage platform rose and he became a larger-than-life figure, transcending his worlds of break-dancing and positive messaging about life with a disability.

He was just good. Really good.

"The guy's insane," mutters the videographer who filmed Patuelli's performance and posted it on YouTube.

Patuelli, whose stage name is Lazylegz, hoists his body up on his crutches, using them like a gymnast's rings to do handstands. He swings his legs in unison, drops the crutches while he's in the air and lands in a somersault, rounding the move off with pushups, with his body, legs and feet suspended parallel above the ground, his arms doing all the work.

He spins on his elbow, the rest of his body hovering. He stands on his head and moves his legs to the beat.

Any suggestion that Patuelli might be somehow diminished by the lack of fully co-operative legs was completely forgotten by those at the opening ceremonies who watched as the breakdancer took the centre of a hip-hop dance troupe.

Mission accomplished, he says.

"I guess I've learned that when people see me dance, that I'm out there having fun, my crutches are used as an extension of my arms, they're not used because I need them," Patuelli said in a weekend interview with The Canadian Press, the rush of the Friday concert still in his voice.

"Yeah, I need them, but what people might see as a disadvantage, I use as an advantage."

The 25-year-old Montrealer was born with arthrogyrposis, a muscle disorder that affects his legs.

He was put on crutches at age three, "dragging my body around using my upper body to pick myself up and walk."

At age eight, he was diagnosed with severe scoliosis, curving his spine.

In one of 16 surgeries, eight of his vertebrae were fused and titanium rods inserted.

But he spent his childhood swimming, diving, skiing and especially skateboarding. He skated on his knees and was good enough to get a sponsor from a local company in Bethesda, Md., where he spent much of his youngest years.

"My dream was to become a professional skateboarder," he said.

But another surgery on his knees changed the angle of his legs to improve his ability to walk.

It messed up his skateboarding career.

"The vibratons of the board bothered my scar, my feet started dragging against the asphalt. So I didn't feel comfortable skating any more," Patuelli says.

At the time, he says he had "absolutely no clue" what breakdancing was about, but some of his skating friends urged him to try it.

"I fell in love with it the minute I started."

Patuelli carefully watched the moves of more able-bodied dancers and figured out how to adapt them to his superior upper-body strength.

"Right now, I'm learning how to fly off the crutches and land in different moves," he says.

"My personal goal at the end of this year is to land a full-front flip off my crutches onto my hands."

That and doubling the half-kilometre distance he can now walk without aid. He says after years of training his upper body, he figures its now time to train his lower body.

Last spring, he graduated from Concordia University with a degree in marketing. Part of what he's marketing is himself - he's developed a career in motivational speaking, with engagements around the world. His motto: "It's about taking the bad and making it good."

But he speaks of his art with the enthusiasm of an athlete looking for the next challenge.

Performing at the Paralympic opening ceremonies, he says, was a "dream come true."

A Vancouver fan he'd never met thought of Lazylegz as soon as he heard the Paralympics were coming to Vancouver.

The fan hunted down the ceremonies' production company and suggested Patuelli as a possible act.

It's been the biggest fulfillment of yet another of Patuelli's goals.

"I have lazy legs and I'm not shy to show it off," he says.

"What I want to prove to people is that everything is possible. We shouldn't let our insecurities get in our way."

-with a file from Tamsyn Burgmann



Still working on that hot first release.



Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli was born on July 28, 1984 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He was born with Arthrogryposis (multiplex congenital), which is a rare muscle disorder that limits motion in the joints. Typically, this rare disorder can affect any part of the body but fortunately in Luca’s case, it affects primarily his legs. At the age of 8, he was also diagnosed with scoliosis, a condition that affects the curvature of the spine. By the time Luca was 13, his spine had a 60° curvature, resulting in immediate surgery, where 8 of his vertebrae were fused and a titanium rod was inserted alongside the spine. Luca has had a total of 16 surgeries on his legs and spine. While growing up in Bethesda, Maryland (a suburb outside of Washington D.C) Luca never let his disability slow him down; actively participating in “normal” everyday activities such as swimming, diving, skiing, horseback riding, sailing and skateboarding too.

In 1999 at the age of 15, a knee surgery left Luca unable to pursue his passion and potential career as a professional skateboarder. This put him in a position to discover his newfound interest in “B-boying” also known as Breakdancing. Noting his muscular arms and natural athleticism, Luca’s friends knew he would do well in this extremely dynamic activity. They took him to his first breakdance show/competition. Shortly after that “Lazylegz” was born.

When Lazylegz first started Breakin’ he had some trouble learning and did not understand why he could not do the same moves as his friends. After becoming more comfortable with his body he began to learn new moves and slowly created his own style. Though, initially it was not easy for him; he had a series of severe injuries including a concussion, sprained wrist, ankle and even a broken leg. These injuries did not block Lazy’s path.

In 2002, after recovering from his broken leg, Luca graduated from BCC High School in Bethesda, MD and moved back to Montreal, QC. That was where he began to learn the secrets of the vast, evolving street culture that helped form his greater appreciation of the true Hip Hop Culture. His massive impact on the Montreal dance community began when Lazylegz represented Canada at top level events such as Freestyle Sessions 8, City vs. City 5, Evolution 2, and many others. Through lots of hard work and dedication, Lazylegz developed a very unique style that incorporated both strength and crutches. Since 2004, his style was positively received in the worldwide Breakdance community giving him the opportunity to compete and perform all over the world.

In 2004, Lazylegz joined forces with Canadian breakdance crew, Illmatic Styles. Together they have performed and competed all over North America and were featured as one of the top 35 acts on NBC’s America’s Got Talent. Following their success, ILLMASK was created; a combination of the finest members of Illmatic Styles and Red Mask, another well known Canadian crew based in Montreal. ILLMASK has represented Canada in countless performances and events.
In 2007, Lazylegz came up with the idea of creating a “super” team of the world’s best disabled breakdancers, called ILL-Abilities Crew. The goal of the team was to show the world that as long as we are positive, creative, and willing to adapt ourselves to any situation, anything is possible. The crew currently consists of 5 “ill-abled” dancers from Canada, USA, Chile, and Holland. Together, they have performed all over the world and they help to spread the message “No Excuses, No Limits”.

To date, Lazylegz has performed on stage with world-renowned artists such as Kanye West, Talib Kweli, K-OS, the Nappy Roots and many more. In 2007, he also made a brief appearance in the movie “Kickin’ It Old Skool”. As for television, he was featured on many different international media sources including Americas Got Talent, Much Music, MBC Korea, NTV Japan, CBC, NBC Today Show and many more. In Montreal, Luca has actively organized many breakdance events including internationally recognized ones, such as Pro-Am, City vs City (Team Montreal), & No Limits. In 2010, Lazylegz with ILLMASK were honoured to represent the world in their biggest performance to date at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Opening Ceremonies. He starred in the “One inspires all” segment where a world record was broken for the biggest flash mob dance.

Since 2006, Luca has dedicated his time to sharing an important message: “It’s about taking the bad and making it good”. He acknowledges that any situation, however bad it may seem, may be transformed into a positive one. As a child, his father always taught him that “your first failure is to not try”. He believes that life is about all the experiences that you have, even those you may dislike. Most importantly, Luca has learned that once you try, you will know what drives you. Luca’s draws his inspiration from many different people and strongly believes that we all learn from e