The United States Embassy partnered with Ill- Abilities to present a week-long youth outreach program in The Bahamas. On March 21 the group visited Abaco and performed at the Every Child Counts School. A number of students from St Francis de Sales School, Forest Heights Academy, Abaco Central High and Wesley College also attended.
Ms. Anita Brown, Public Affairs Officer at the American Embassy, introduced the break dance crew informing the audience that though every dancer is perceived as having a different disability (which they themselves call an “ill ability”) they were here to show that all people have the power to do anything if they don’t make excuses.
The five performers, all with different challenges, are very personable young men from different countries who have each taken their own limitations and developed their own unique style of dancing. They now travel the globe encouraging young people to tap into their talents and know that they can overcome any obstacles. They show the youth, through their dancing and verbal presentations, that; “Anything is possible; as long as you keep an open mind and are creative you can adapt yourself to any situation.”
The programme began with the leader, who calls himself ‘Lazy Legz’ owing to the fact that he has very little muscle in his legs and has to get around with the use of sticks, getting the audience participating in some fun movements. Then, following an exciting display of their break dancing skills, each member of the group spoke about their own challenges and efforts to overcome them.
Lazy Legz, who hails from Canada, has undergone 16 surgeries in his young life. His parents were told that he would spend his life in a wheelchair. Instead of a wheelchair they bought him a tricycle which helped to strengthen his legs and he is now learning to walk without crutches. In 2010 he walked .1 km without the use of leg braces even though he fell 55 times in doing so. Today he says that he would not replace his own legs with normal legs because he is proud of what he has done.
Tommy, who is from the Orient, was born with no physical challenges but grew up in foster care since his mother died when he was three years old and his father ran away. “I have always been artistic but in my junior year of high school I discovered dancing. I trained in San Francisco and I practice every chance I get,” he says. When he was 18 years of age he began getting a pain in his knee which, unfortunately, turned out to be cancer and his leg was amputated above the knee. That was 10 years ago and since then he has travelled the world. He is now living in Japan and last year featured in a movie which was nominated for best picture. “Keep trying and focus on the things you can do,” is his advice.
Chicho from Chile was born with a malformation of his legs. His feet are attached to his knees and he calls himself “Sexy Legs”. When he was born the doctors told his mother that her baby had been born as a monster and would be better off dead. His mother said; “No, my son is beautiful, I am taking him home with me.”
His mother encouraged him to figure out how to do things his own way because she told him she would not always be around. “When I was five years old I had a dream in which I could only see hands so I started practicing walking on my hands, “he remembers. Although he uses a skateboard for getting around nowadays, Chicho dances on his hands and proudly says; “Today I am a monster on the dance floor.” His advice is, “If you have dreams follow your dreams and don’t let anyone stop you from pursuing your dreams.”
Kujo from Los Angeles, California, is the oldest of the group. Although he does not have any visible challenges, he is deaf. He was born 100% deaf in his right ear and due to a traumatic head injury as a child lost almost all the hearing in his left ear. This not only caused him trouble hearing but also speaking since he could not hear and copy voices.
He spent many years in speech therapy and dealt with a lot of anger issues. Needing escape from his anger and the danger all around from gangs in Los Angeles, he found hip-hop in high school as a way to express himself in body movement and dance. Dancing gave him the confidence to get through school and he went on to major in dance science at college.
He has now been dancing professionally for 15 years and has been hired for music videos, has performed with Cirque du Soleil and has travelled the world.
He explains that although he cannot hear the music he feels the beat and watches people bobbing their heads and clapping in time to the music and has found his own unique style of dancing. This has also given him the confidence to speak which he does very clearly and confidently.
The fifth young man of the group hails from the Netherlands and was born with a short right arm with only two fingers and three fingers on his left hand. Also his right leg is shorter than his left leg and he has no left hip which gives him what he jokingly calls a ‘gangster walk’.
“My parents raised me like any other kid. At first I had no confidence because people stared but your mind is the strongest thing you have. If you feel good about yourself then others will feel it.” Since he found dancing he has travelled the world and now owns a professional dance school in Holland. “Don’t make assumptions about people who look different, see what they can do,” he urges.
After these most inspiring talks the group leader selected three brave students from the audience who enjoyed assisting him in a stunt. Then the group once again took to the floor and gave a breathtaking display of their break dancing talents, leaving their audience with the message, “We all face challenges in some way, encourage others to follow their passion and remember our motto ‘No Excuses, No Limits.’”