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Former National Chief Shawn Atleo surfaces as B-Boy star

After being out of the Canadian political spotlight for over two years, the beleaguered former head of the Assembly of First Nations has surfaced in New York City, where he is now a rising star in the B-Boy world.

Shawn Atleo made history in 2014 when he became the first National Chief to resign from the AFN before finishing his term. What few know is that Atleo — who is perhaps now better known to his multitude of fans as “Crazy Legs” — used to teach B-Boy dancing to Indigenous youth in British Columbia.

B-Boy, sometimes called breakdancing, is an artform based in hiphop and often sees its practitioners wildly contort their bodies. It was born in the U.S. in the 1970s.

“This is just me getting back to my roots,” Atleo said, his hand rubbing his goateed chin in his cavernous Brooklyn warehouse apartment.

Many political insiders thought Atleo would follow the usual post-leadership path of serving on boards, entering academics or even practicing law, so news of his current career comes as a surprise.

“This is more my world than the boardrooms and offices of Ottawa ever were,” Atleo said. “I’m home.”

Besides, as “Crazy Legs” he now commands a six-figure salary for his performances and from a lucrative sponsorship deal with Puma.

During breaks in meetings or in his hotel room at the end of his long days as National Chief, Atleo said he would throw cardboard down on the floor and practice his moves. A practice he credits with allowing him to ease back into the B-Boy scene so easily and so successfully.