For most of us, using crutches to get around would be an excuse to sit on the side of the dance floor. A select few take those crutches and outshine everyone around them. Here are the stories of four men who have two things in common: they use a crutch or two, and they are very, very good dancers.
Luca "Lazylegz" Patuelli
BBoy Luca "Lazylegz" Patuelli was born in Montreal, Quebec with arthrogryposis, a muscle disorder that only affects his legs. He grew up in Bethesda, Maryland and began competing in hip hop dance competitions when he was fifteen years old. Patuelli has performed onstage with Kanye West and other well-known musicians and dancers. In addition to dancing on crutches, he also breakdances on his extremely strong arms. Patuelli recently graduated from Concordia University with a degree in marketing. In addition to his studies and dancing in competitions and exhibitions, he mentors young dancers and does motivational speaking at schools. See Patuelli in a breakdance battle with Petit Freez, an amputee dancer also on crutches.
Ma Li was 19 years old and already a professional ballerina in China when she lost her right arm in a traffic accident in 1996. She went through a depression and attempted suicide, but her parents' support changed her outlook. Ma opened a bookstore to support herself. In 2001, She was invited to take part in a performing arts showcase for the disabled, and the love of dance returned to her.
Zhai Xiaowei was only four years old when his left leg had to be amputated after a tractor accident. He grew up participating in all kinds of sports anyway, and was training for the cycling events of the disabled Olympics in China when he met Ma Li in 2005. He'd never even considered ballet before Ma recruited him to dance with her. Zhai moved in with Ma and her manager/boyfriend and trained 12-16 hours a day. The hard work paid off when the two entered the CCTV national dance competition in 2007. They were the only disabled act in the competition, but they won the silver medal and placed first in the audience voting. See their performance of Hand in Hand on video.
Reynaldo Ojeda is a salsa dancer from Bogota, Colombia. He was born with only one leg, but with the support of his family, was active in all kinds of sports as he was growing up. He began dancing as an adult, and now teaches salsa dancing on weekends and hopes to compete in worldwide salsa competitions. See a video of Ojeda dancing with Claudia Lopez.
Bill "Crutch Master" Shannon has bilateral hip displacement, arising from Legg Calve Perthes syndrome. The result is that his legs work, but can't support his weight properly, so he supports himself with crutches -in more ways than one. Shannon's balance on crutches led to dance, which led to hip hop dancing with crutches as works of art, as you can see in this video. Shannon is an award-winning artist, dancer, and choreographer.
See also: Swimming Without Legs.