Legally blind ballerina raises the 'barre' in Wilmington

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Jamie Meyer has performed with the First State Ballet theatre since she was 6.

The holidays are a cherished time for members of the First State Ballet Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware.

They just performed the city's annual tradition of the "Nutcracker" and they just learned that one of their fellow dancers is legally blind.

Jamie Meyer has performed with the First State Ballet Theatre since she was 6. She turned 21 on Christmas Eve.

She can't make out the image of the artistic director who has taught her for 15 years, but she moves in perfect unison with the other dancers.

"I don't really think about it when I'm dancing that much," Meyer said.

At age 13, Meyer was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a rare genetic disorder that has left her with no central vision, only peripheral.

But it hasn't stopped her from pursuing her passion for.

"I figured out when I was really young that I wanted to be a ballerina and that plan never really changed. It wasn't a traumatizing experience necessarily, it wasn't a traumatic thing," Meyer said.

In fact, she didn't even tell her fellow dancers until a few months ago.

Her teacher has known for less than a year.

"She didn't tell me. I knew maybe a year ago," artistic director Pasha Kambalov said. "I was like 'wow, she's doing such a great job."

She didn't want to be treated differently.

When she's performing, Jamie says the only difficulty she has is sometimes locating the stage markings and leaving the stage.

"My eyes just don't adjust that quickly to the light changes so I'll just grab a friend and run off the stage," Meyer said.

Her disease has now stabilized. Her doctors say she will never go completely blind.

"The worst that can happen is central vision loss and I've heard there's a possibility of color-blindness, but I don't have that yet," Meyer said.

What she does have is the freedom to dance.

After her holiday break, Jamie will perform "Up Front," a collection of excerpts from various ballets. That'll happen at the Grand Opera House the first weekend in February.
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