ILL-Abilities is a break dance group that believes in “unwavering self worth,” and each member certainly demonstrated that concept Wednesday evening.
The group, composed of dancers who each have a different physical disability, shared their personal stories as well as an energetic performance at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Heritage Hall in the HUB-Robeson Center.
Before the performance, Brittany Chwastiak expressed her interest in hearing the members of ILL-Abilities share their personal stories.
Chwastiak (senior-kinesiology) said she heard about the group from a classmate.
“I was interested to see what these guys can do,” she said. “Even I can’t do this stuff.”
At the beginning of the free show, each “b-boy” briefly showcased his unique dance movements. Each did spins on the ground, as well as some intricate footwork, all to the cheers and uninhibited applause of the small but enthusiastic crowd.
First to share his story with the audience was Jacob “Kujo” Lyons. .
“As you can see, I’m the funny-looking member of the crew,” he said jokingly, which made the audience members laugh.
Lyons, of Los Angeles, Ca., was born deaf in his right ear, and developed conjunctive hearing loss in his left ear, making him almost completely deaf.
He said that for years he felt frustrated because he struggled not only to hear- but also to speak. Break dancing became the outlet for all that frustration.
“It gave me something positive to put my attention to, to put my energy to,” Lyons said.
Even within the dance community, Lyons was often made fun of because he did not dance on the beat. However, he said that his limited ability to hear the music he dances to has given him “an interesting sort of freedom.”
Lyons concluded by saying he has taken his unique dance style to six different continents.
“It’s amazing what you can do when you stop making excuses,” he said.
For Sergio “Checho” David, dance has been a lifelong passion.
David, born in Chile, has a malformation in his legs and has no kneecaps. He spoke in Spanish and had the group’s founder, Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli, translate for him. He said that when he was born, even his doctor had little confidence in his abilities.
When he was 5 years old, he dreamed of being able to walk on his hands, so he began to practice doing just that.
One day, a break dancing group noticed his unique skill and invited him to join them.
David said break dancing boosted his confidence. Even within the dance community, others discriminated against him. He said this motivated him more to create movements no one else can do. Now, those who once discriminated against him are afraid he will beat them in competition, he said with a laugh.
ILL-Abilities performed again before the final two group members shared their stories. One dancer performed a backflip. David lifted his legs all the way over his head, which prompted the crowd to cheer, clap and whoop. Patuelli used his crutches as extensions of his arms and swung his body around them.
All five members of ILL-Abilities were cheerful and had great senses of humor. Hardly a minute passed without a joke. At one point, Patuelli and Redouan “Redo” Ait Chitt asked the audience which of the two had sexier legs.
Though the crowd that came to Heritage Hall to watch ILL-Abilities was small, the cheers and applause they received were enthusiastic nonetheless.