A Dance for Abigail

So You Think You Can Dance comes to the Saenger Theatre Tuesday night, and a Picayune teenager will go backstage to meet the stars. Abby Montgomery dreamed of being a professional dancer since she was a little girl, but there's a chance here world could go dark before her dreams come true.

She knows the routines on the Picayune High School Dance Team, but actually doing them is tricky. Abby can't see any of the girls dancing beside her.

"When I'm in a group, if I'm trying to see where I'm going it causes problems because I bump into people quite a lot," she said.

Her coach Jessica Spiers says Abby has to look from side to side from time to time but she never uses her eye disease as a crutch. Abby has Retintis Pigmentosa. The hereditary disorder affects the back inside wall of the eye responsible for capturing images from the visual field.

"It starts off you lose your peripheral vision," Abby said. She put her hands up to the sides of her face to demonstrate.

"It slowly comes in and you get to where you see like a tunnel and it progressively comes in."

LSU Ophthalmologist Dr. Maria Reinoso says it's not very common and usually runs in families. Doctors diagnosed Abby around the age of 12. Her father Mike Montgomery is now legally blind.

"In 1990 he was 29 years old and found out he had Retinitis Pigmentosa," said Abby's Mom Robyn.

Abby had already fallen in love with dance as her father's tunnel vision grew progressively worse over the years.

He mother says when she first began to dance, she was a natural performer.

"It's fun, it's something that you love to do. You have freedom when you do it," Abby said smiling.

She never worried about her vision until...

"About three or four years ago I'd go outside at night and I'd be walking around and I couldn't see anything," she said.

Her mother said she knew then something was wrong
By the time she was 14, she was seeing a little more than half of what other people could. Her peripheral vision was rapidly deteriorating. Now, she has 30 or 40 degrees of vision in each eye.

Her mother said, "It's ironic she has those bright blue eyes and she's losing her vision. By the time we really figured it out it had progressed to a pretty synificant point."

Her mother says she still does well in dance solos because it's just her on the stage. The worries of running into the next person is not there.

"I love seeing her dance by herself on the stage," Robyn said.

At Leisha's Dance School in Picayune Abby is in the more advanced classes. She dances as if every movement is her last. She says the thought of going blind scares her, but if it happened she knows what she wants her last image to be.

"On the stage looking out to the crowd," she says.