Visually Impaired Woman Teaches Line DancingPosted: February 1, 2007
Hi. While reading
The Ouch Blog
I came across this.
LEESBURG — Billie “Boo” Hood does not have a long time to chat. She is busy setting up music, making sure slips of paper with dance instructions are in order and greeting class members.
Hood volunteers at the Leesburg Senior Center, leading line dances on Tuesday afternoons, Friday afternoons and Friday nights. She has anywhere from 20 to 34 students at each session.
Hood slipped on the headpiece of a wireless microphone and adjusted it over her glasses.
“OK, let’s go,” she said as the music started, counting off the beat for the dancers then taking up the rhythmic chant of “kick, ball chain, step in and out, point, cross.”
But Hood wasn’t entirely sure her class was in step until 30 right heels came down in unison on the final step.
“Sounds great, everyone,” she said.
Hood is legally blind. The Leesburg resident keeps track of how her dancers are doing with her ears, and with what is left of her peripheral vision. She can’t see straight ahead because macular degeneration has robbed her of much of her sight.
“I can see everything except what I’m looking at,” Hood said with a chuckle. “You should see me try to spray a roach. When I teach a new step, and we do a walk through, I tell people to nod their head if they get it — they know I can’t see them.”
“She’s been dealing with visual impairment for years,” said Otis Maxson, Retired Senior Volunteer Program coordinator for Lake and Sumter counties. “Most of us should use Boo as an example. If her regular ride can’t bring her, she calls around until she gets a ride. She’s always been an independent person, so that’s hard for her.”
Dancing has been part of Hood’s life for a number of years.
“I never took lessons as a kid, but I have always liked music. I just can’t stand still when there is music,” Hood said. “I was living part time up in North Carolina, and I saw line dancing, and I started going. Eventually I became a teacher.”
But Hood soon began to notice trouble with her vision.
“The doctor told me I had macular degeneration in 1998, and by 2000, I was legally blind,” Hood said. “When the doctor told me about it, I just asked, ‘What do I do next?’”
Hood then returned to her native Leesburg.
“All my family is here,” Hood said. “I have three children, seven grandkids and three-and-eight-tenths great-great grandchildren.”
Hood also got to work, taking classes in independent living and Braille. Soon, she found herself teaching the classes to others.
Hood also uses a few technological tricks to supplement her remaining vision, including a computer program that reads what is on the screen and a device that magnifies printed pages.
“I really don’t have difficulty leading the (line dance) class,” Hood said, “because I have so much help. People here will read anything that I need read to me. I find new dances on the Internet, I work them out, or people bring them to me.”
Hood draws a wide audience to her dance sessions.
“People,” Maxson said, “come to the class for entertainment, exercise, and because they love to line dance. People come from all over — Leesburg, Lady Lake and Ocklawaha.”
Rita Jennings of Groveland has been coming to Hood’s line dance classes “off and on” for four years.
“I like her, she’s good,” Jennings said.
It took a while for Jennings to realize that Hood had a visual impairment.
“I didn’t realize it the first time I came,” Jennings said. “I realized later that the way she was looking at me meant she couldn’t see.”
Hood recently added the Friday night line dancing session.
“I wanted to start the Friday night session so people who work all week would have a chance to come and enjoy dancing, too,” Hood said.
How cool is this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!