by Jill P
The Kalamazoo Valley Museum welcomes America’s Got Talent (AGT) Semifinalist Benjamin Yonattan to the Museum Explorers program on February 12, 2016. The Museum will be open from 5-8 pm for visitors to explore the new exhibit, Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear, receive an exclusive gift, and enjoy a variety of related hands-on activities.
Benjamin will dance at 6 pm and then share about his experience with AGT and how he is facing life and his dream of becoming a professional dancer and choreographer while losing his sight. Visitors may become Museum Explorers members online at www.kalamazoomuseum.org.
Benjamin Yonattan was born in Guatemala with Epidermolysis Bullosa, a rare skin condition that causes his skin to rip when touched too roughly. Adopted at the age of 4, he started dance lessons, and dance became his passion. Benjamin has danced with Young People’s Ballet Theater, the Ohio Conservatory of Ballet, and the Grand Rapids Ballet Junior Company. Most recently, he was a contestant on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, making it into the semifinals, a remarkable achievement for this 14-year-old from Texas Corners, especially since he started losing his sight two years ago.
(photo courtesy of Mark Bugnaski, MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette)
Benjamin has retinal dystrophy, which has left him almost completely blind. His peripheral vision has shrunk to the size of a small straw, but it hasn’t stopped him from dancing. With help from dance coaches at the University of Michigan and Western Michigan University and Google Glass technology, Benjamin has learned to feel his body instead of relying on his sight. Benjamin has faced his fears and conquered them. He hopes to be the first blind student to receive a degree in dance. Benjamin will be available for pictures following his performance.
The Museum Explorers program offers special presentations when the Museum is not open to the public, as well as private openings for new exhibits. Explorers members will also have opportunities to help identify future traveling exhibits and test possible new permanent exhibits. Membership requires an e-mail address to receive special invitations.
The Kalamazoo Valley Museum is operated by Kalamazoo Valley Community College and is governed by its Board of Trustees.