Brenda Mosby has endured a lot of challenges throughout her life, but none bigger than losing her eyesight in 1994.
At first, she cried, she was angry, she hated herself and the world. But during this painful period, there was one thing that kept a smile on her face and made her feel beautiful and carefree: dancing.
Dance has been an integral part of Mosby's life since she was old enough to stand, she said, and she feels an urge to get up, twirl and wave her arms whenever music is on.
While growing up in South Bend, Indiana, Mosby and her seven siblings — and sometimes her parents — would jump onto the dining room table and dance the night away as Motown classics by the Supremes and the Jackson Five roared throughout the house.
But it wasn't always like that and over the years, Mosby has come to see her blindness as a blessing rather than a curse.
Since losing her sight, she has earned both a bachelor's and master's degree, started a business, wrote a book and recently got married. Each of these milestones has instilled confidence and led her to her newest challenge: learning ballet.
"I'm a dancer at heart. I really love to dance," Mosby said. "One day I said, 'I want to do ballet,' so now I'm giving it a try."
When Mosby lost her sight nearly 30 years ago, she rented a cabin in Evergreen where she spoke to God on a daily basis.
"I didn't think I would ever work again, I didn't think I'd get married, I didn't think I'd be able to have a normal life and those are the things that kept me depressed," Mosby said.
Mosby's life changed when she met and hired a spiritual counselor, Constance Wilson.
"She helped me understand that being blind is just another aspect of me, like being able to walk and do everything else," Mosby said. "And just because I couldn't use my eyes doesn't make me less than (anyone else)."
Wilson encouraged Mosby to attend a retreat in Kansas City, where she met a retired rehabilitation counselor who worked for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation — an agency devoted to helping people with disabilities gain skills to join or rejoin the workforce.
Mosby enrolled in the agency's training courses and learned how to get around with her white cane — on the streets, on a train, on a bus. She also learned how to maintain her household despite not being able to see.
With her newly acquired skills, Mosby looked to help others around her. She enrolled at Metropolitan State University of Denver, where she obtained a degree in human services. After graduating, Mosby enrolled at New York University to pursue a master's degree in vocational rehabilitation.
Afterward, she started her own business, Mosby Services, which offers career coaching.
"I had built so much love and confidence in myself, it made me feel empowered and showed me I can do anything," Mosby said.
Mosby became intrigued with ballet while taking dance classes at Spoke N Motion, where she noticed that many dancers integrated ballet into their warmups.
A few months ago, she decided to give ballet a try.
"I knew I needed to do something with myself and my body and try and get in shape. And one day I just said, 'I want to do ballet,'" Mosby said.
But finding the right instructor — like coming to accept losing her sight — didn't happen overnight. Mosby joined a class that was supposed to include dancers of all skill levels, including beginners, but many of her classmates had previous experience with ballet.
She approached one of the instructors and began taking lessons one on one, but again, it wasn't a good fit.
"They were young and I explained to them I just wanted to get in shape, have good balance and have fun, and I didn't feel like they were really hearing me," Mosby said. "But that's when I met Diane."
Diane Page, a longtime ballet teacher at the Colorado Ballet Academy and the Denver Dance Center, struck up a conversation with Mosby one day at the dance studio. She told her if she wasn't enjoying her experience she should try a session with her.
It was an instant match, they said.
"I'm at an older age like Brenda, so I understand that not everyone wants to jump or do certain things, so we just adjust," Page said. "We've learned several methods that help Brenda learn."
Each of those methods include using touch and sound. For instance, if Mosby is struggling to understand how her feet should be positioned, they'll both get on the ground and Mosby will touch her instructor's feet to understand how hers should look or how they should move.
Mosby says the relationship works perfectly because they're both older women and because of the amount of patience Page has shown over the last four months.
"I feel I don't have to be perfect," Mosby said. "I feel that if I can't do it, I can keep trying and trying and she'll help me improve."
Mosby plans to learn ballet for one year and then reevaluate whether she wants to continue. Page said Mosby's determination is inspiring.
"I've never known anyone blind (who has studied) ballet and she's just stuck with it and continues to improve," Page said. "Every week she works hard and remembers that's what it takes to learn ballet."
Some had their doubts when Mosby began taking ballet lessons, but family and friends have noticed that her posture is better and her overall well-being has improved.
Mosby's husband, Gregory Gisbert, said Brenda's decision to pursue ballet and stick with it epitomizes who she is.
"She has a very 'I can do it if I want to do it' attitude and belief system," he said. "And the way she carries herself affects myself and other people who have met her in the way that she's been able to share that joy of life and her can do attitude and belief system that very few people have in these dark times."
In addition to learning ballet, Mosby continues to run her company, write books and inspire others.
"Step out of your comfort zone and be willing to try something new. Challenge yourself," Mosby said. "Ballet is a challenge. I mean, who starts ballet at 66 years old, right? There are so many things in our lives that we can do if we just try. And if it doesn't work the first time, try again or try something else... You know, for a while I thought I was worthless and (would) never live again because of a disability, but now I realize it's just one aspect.
"So, wherever you are in life there is that power to be (what) you want to be, do what you want to do, go where you want to go and you just have to believe in yourself and that can only happen if you love yourself."