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Sight Loss No Deterrent: He Dances Up a Storm

October 03, 1991|HERBERT J. VIDA

Brad Grabill likes to dance, but never thought he would end up teaching, especially since he is blind.

Twice a week he teaches such steps as tush push, cowboy hustle and Elvira in country line dancing to sighted people at El Capitan, an Irvine restaurant.

And twice a week Grabill, 44, teaches line dancing to the visually impaired at the Braille Institute in Anaheim, where he learned to be self-sufficient after losing his sight at age 32, as a result of diabetes.

Not content with the dancing he does the four times a week he teaches, Grabill said he often grabs a cab to go dancing on other nights.

"I teach dancing the same way in both places," said Grabill, a graduate of Valley High School in Santa Ana, who shares the dance-teaching role with Pat Tebo, a sighted teacher at the institute.

'He's a very good teacher, and we all have a great deal of fun," she said. "We have a ball."

Grabill said about the only problem blind dancers have is facing the right direction, "but (Tebo) straightens them out." The steps are called much in the same way as in square dancing.

"You don't have partners so you can get out there by yourself," Grabill said.

"I went to El Capitan where they gave free lessons," said Grabill, of Irvine. "I know what I'm doing and it's not difficult for me to teach it."

Grabill said he must be doing something right.

"The people are having a lot of fun and keep coming back week after week," he said.

While sighted people learn faster because they can see their feet, Grabill said the visually impaired are also quick to adapt to the steps. "Blind people have better memories," he said.

What's more important is that "blind people don't get much exercise and dancing is one way to get it," said Grabill, who also attends a twice weekly exercise class at Irvine Valley College and often takes long walks with his guide dog.

While providing exercise, dancing is also a social outlet, says Sue Dahlen, coordinator of student training at the Braille Institute, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Dahlen notes that when people lose their eyesight, it doesn't mean that they lose everything else. "The visually impaired, such as Grabill, are capable people," she said. "We think he is absolutely marvelous."

Grabill is one of 10 siblings and the only one affected by diabetes.

Before losing his sight, Grabill was a painting contractor, like his father.

"He took me to work with him one day and that started me off," said Grabill, who later worked for two of his brothers, both painting contractors.

Later he opened his own painting business.

"Things were going very well and I enjoyed the work and was good at it. Then I went blind in one eye, but I kept working," he said. "I never worried about it because I never thought I would lose it all."

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