A wife and mother of two, 49-year-old Rhonda Chapman works as a retail sales specialist and full-time ambassador for Bosma Enterprises, the only Indianapolis-area non-profit provider of programs and services solely focused on people who are blind or visually impaired. Chapman knows her work well. Totally blind, she lost her sight 12 years ago over a 10-day period due to a condition called pseudotumorcerebri, which is a buildup of spinal fluid in the brain that, left untreated, leads to eventual loss of sight.
"When you go from being an upward, mobile suburban mom to come to a halt and you're in the dark, it takes some adjustment," Chapman says. "It was just crazy; I couldn't have a breakdown of my own because I was too busy propping up everybody else. There's so much you don't know about blind people until you interact with us for an amount of time. So I want to be able to share, enlighten and encourage."
Losing the power of sight was a terrible struggle, but Chapman, along with 10 other blind and visually impaired employees and clients at Bosma Enterprises, is not letting that stop her from performing alongside members of Dance Kaleidoscope for a show called Moving Vision on Nov. 6. The performance, part of the Spirit and Place Festival, will feature different kinds of acts from each dancer and participant.
Chapman says that she wouldn't miss the opportunity to participate in Moving Vision because of her past experience as a dancer. "I knew I never wanted to be a ballet dancer, but I loved to dance," she says. "When I was younger, I had a dance teacher that told me I didn't have the body to be a dancer, so when I heard about this opportunity I saw it as another chance to prove them wrong."
Bosma Creative Director Diane McGuire says that Moving Vision got its start around a year ago when she ran into Dance Kaleidoscope's CEO Jan Virgin and pitched the idea of collaboration between the two organizations. From there Virgin passed the idea along to Dance Kaleidoscope Director of Education Lynn Webster, and the rest is history.
More than for just entertainment, Moving Vision aims to share the stories of the Bosma participants and to give them a chance to express their emotions. Webster says that Dance Kaleidoscope sat down with Bosma to try to figure out how to reach audiences that might not normally attend a dance performance.
"I think there's a lot that people can learn about working with and sharing their stories with people who are different," Webster says. "It's going to be a beautiful way to look at things. Dancers are so graceful and the authors are so giving and are so touching in how exuberant they are about life. I think it would be a great piece for everybody to see."
"This project is not about showing off and all the fancy tricks you can do as a dancer," says Dance Kaleidoscope dancer Liberty Harris, Chapman's partner in Moving Vision. "It's about humans interacting and trying to take a story that has had some struggle in it and make it a beautiful story through art. Trusting a stranger with your story, what comes from that interaction is the kind of stuff that fights all the bad stuff out there in the world."
Chapman and Harris are both excited to put on Moving Vision. "I think that humans who don't know each other, coming together and risking being vulnerable in different ways and creating art and beauty is the stuff that makes the world a better place," Harris says.
"I think we're going to bring down the house," Chapman adds. "I think it's going to be a show people don't quickly forget."