Watch: These Differently-Abled Dancers Are Pushing the Limits of Breaking

There's a tradition in hip-hop culture of reclaiming negative words as positive ones. That's why you might hear things like "nasty" or "bad" as compliments. The same goes for ILL-Abilities, a breaking crew comprised of differently-abled dancers:

"The 'ill' does not refer to 'sick' or 'unwell' but rather to incredible, amazing, intricate, talent," they write on their website. "Rather than seeing the negative limitations of 'disability,' this crew focuses on their positive, or 'ill,' abilities."

A new video for NOWNESS, directed by 2018 25 to Watcher Jacob Jonas, shows just how "ill" these dancers are:


The crew defines "ill-ability" as "creating advantages from disadvantages" and "an adaptation of power, strength and creativity." It's clear from the video what they mean: The crew isn't just breaking, they're pushing the form by tapping into what makes them different.

The result is inspiring, and often mind-blowing. One dancer can do a series push-ups with neither of his feet touching the ground. Another seems to be able to accomplish everything most break dancers do on two legs with only one leg.

The ILL-Abilities dancers also teach breaking workshops for people of all abilities, opening the doors of this breathtaking form to everyone.

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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