38 years later, visually-impaired East Texas woman goes back to ballet class

Pat George Mitchell helps Catherine Harrison stretch.
Pat George Mitchell helps Catherine Harrison stretch.
Updated: Dec. 17, 2018 at 6:22 PM CST
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LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - Ballet is not exactly the easiest way to get a workout, but imagine trying to do it without your vision.

A visually-impaired East Texas woman is doing just that with the help of a ballet instructor who taught her more than three decades ago.

After a 38-year break, Catherine Harrison has decided to renew her ballet lessons with her former teacher Pat George Mitchell at the Studio of Creative Arts in Longview.

“Everything I needed to know in life I learned in these four walls. How to work hard, how to do your best; when you fall, the music keeps playing. You have to get up and keep going,” Harrison said.

Studying with Mitchell got her scholarships to the School of American Ballet in New York.

Harrison said she used her training under Mitchell as a nurse and a model.

Over the last two decades, Retinitis Pigmentosa has taken nearly all of her vision.

All that remains is “a teeny tiny little tunnel about the size of a straw,” Harrison said.

That took her nursing career, so to go back to modeling, she went back to her roots. After a phone call, her ballet instructor was excited.

“Wow, I get to see her again. And it’s just been so fun and so inspiring, you know because teachers need to be inspired too,” Mitchell said.

Her students come back to visit, but rarely to train. Harrison said with Mitchell’s help, she is figuring out why her balance was so poor and how to correct it.

When it comes to working, she wants to be treated like anyone else.

“I don’t want to be hired as a model because I’m blind. I want to be hired in spite of being blind,” Harrison revealed.

She’s been to school to learn how to live her life with a visual impairment. Now she’s back to where it all started to help her move forward one step at a time.

Catherine Harrison says she’s not sure if the training can take her back to a performance level. She says that depends on what her instructor, Pat George Mitchell thinks.

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