Breakdancer uses disability to smash stereotypes

Luca Patuelli has toured the world, breakdancing in Japan, France, Canada and cities throughout the United States. What sets him apart from other breakdancers, however, is that he does it all despite a muscle disorder that prevents him from being able to walk without the aid of crutches.

Known by his performing moniker “Lazylegz,” Patuelli will be speaking tonight at the Marshall Student Center as part of a Cultural Diversity Awareness series called “Breaking the Crutch of Disability.”

Interim Coordinator of the Multicultural Office Chris Chell said he expects between 300 to 800 students to attend.

Patuelli was born with a muscle disorder called Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenital, which limits motion in the body joints.

According to Patuelli’s official Web site,, the disorder normally affects the body as a whole, but has only affected Patuelli’s legs.

Despite having limited movement in his legs, Patuelli uses his upper-body strength and crutches to breakdance.

According to the Department of Communications and Marketing, Patuelli will give a speech and then possibly participate in a breakdancing challenge with students.

Chell used local newspapers, campus marketing and social networking sites such as Facebook to promote tonight’s event, but said he didn’t think that was enough.

“People aren’t as informed as they could be,” he said. “We needed more money to market, but our budget is strictly A&S (Activity and Service fee) funded.”

Chell did not disclose the amount of money A&S is providing for marketing the event.

Patuelli’s presence on campus tonight is partly due to Merry L. Morris, a theater and dance instructor who was “impressed and inspired” by one of Patuelli’s many YouTube clips.

Morris teaches a class that allows people with varied disabilities to perform along with able-bodied students.

Morris said Patuelli will be a special guest in her dance class this afternoon. He will talk to the students about his passion for breakdancing.

“I want to expand opportunities, increase inclusion and challenge perception of what disability is,” Morris said.

She said the perception of people with disabilities is that they can’t do certain things, but sometimes they can do even more than those without a disability.

Patuelli’s speech tonight is part of an effort by the Office of Multicultural Affairs to educate students about people with disabilities, said Raquel Peverini, USF Equal Opportunity Affairs and Diversity consultant.

Peverini said people with disabilities face the same kind of discrimination as other minority groups.

“Sometimes, individuals don’t know what to say or do when they meet someone with a disability, so they avoid that situation altogether,” she said.

Morris and Peverini said they believe that Patuelli and others like him can change the perception of disabled people and make people realize that a person’s spirit and desire to do something is much stronger than what his or her body allows.

Tonight’s event is also sponsored by the Department of Mechanical Engineering — which worked with other University departments to create a rolling dance chair to help people with mixed abilities dance — and Project Able, a student organization that raises awareness about students with disabilities.

Patuelli will speak at 7:30 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center Oval Theater. Admission is free for students and non-students.