Artist Turns Ordeal Into Inspiration

Paralyzed at 12, artist dances, writes children's books and songs, and does photography
By Yvonne Marcotte, Epoch Times
December 23, 2015 Updated: April 11, 2016

GOSHEN—Creativity is a special gift which can arrive in more than one package. Rayanne Rysinger has several—dancer, photographer, lyricist, and author. These talents could be taken for granted in a young adult who trained in each from an early age, but Rysinger is in a class of her own.

After an operation to remove a brain tumor left Rysinger paralyzed when she was 12, she has used creative outlets to forge a useful and satisfying life.

The Orange Council Arts Council honored Rysinger with a first-time award as inspirational artist at its Arts Award Gala event on Nov. 12. “Rayanne has a great sense of humor, a zest for life, and captures the heart of everyone who meets her,” stated the arts council on Facebook.

When she had a brain tumor removed, Rysinger was hospitalized for six months. “Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.” She had to relearn everything. She says she spent ten years “not doing much,” but decided to keeping living her life. Then creativity kicked in in a big way.

They were, like, ‘Why don’t you just try walking first?’ I said, ‘No. I want to dance.’
— Rayanne Rysinger

Now in her twenties, Rysinger dances to help with flexibility and movement, writes music to keep her spirits buoyant, and takes photos to appreciate the world around her and to illustrate her children’s books.

Creativity to Spare

The arts council award noted Rysinger has “used the arts to keep both her mind and body limber, alert, and improving.” Dance does that for her body.

After her operation, others suggested she take things a little slower. “I wanted to start dancing and they were, like, ‘Why don’t you just try walking first?’ I said, ‘No. I want to dance.'”

Dancing—ballet, ballroom, and contemporary—fulfills her in many ways. “That’s what I do and what I love.” Rysinger has a special affection for modern dance. “I love, love, love contemporary dance. Apparently that is my strong suit.”

Her dance partner for the last six years, Vasily Nikeshin, has taught her how her body moves and to improve her balance. “Rayanne tremendously improved her motor skills, she has better balance now, and is better able to control her walking skills and arm movements.”

“I’ve grown a lot through dance,” Rayanne said. She recently did some dance moves on her own, a big step.

Rysinger takes photographs. Her framed work is on display at Elsie’s Café in Goshen. The scenes are what Rysinger sees around her, farmland, farm animals, flowers in bloom. Many images illustrate her children’s books.

Writing songs got a push from the Taylor Swift lyrics, “All the other girls, while they are beautiful, would they write a song for you?” She says it’s a great way to get her feelings out on paper.

Rysinger’s mother connected her with a local composer, Debbie Major. Working with Major, Rysinger has turned out a CD of her songs, “Elsie’s West Main.”

Major says the two meet twice a month for two hours. “She has a poem or an idea for lyrics in hand and she’ll talk with me about the feeling she has about the tune,” Major said. Rayanne senses the rhythm she wants—waltz, two step, rock, ballad, etc—and Major will “fiddle around with a melody and chord arrangement.”

Major says she has gained a friend. Rayanne is “not afraid to forge ahead and…friendlier than most.” Another CD is set to come out next spring, tentatively titled “Angel.”

Her children’s books are filled with original photographs. Her first, “Poppy’s Farm,” tells the story of a child who visits a farm and the animals talk. She enjoys photographing flowers and plans a second children’s book about a young girl who visits her grandmother’s garden, “in the summer months, of course.”

She has written a memoir about her extraordinary life to date and used her photos to help tell her story. She is planning a coffee table book on barns. Her aunt helped Rysinger to self-publish the works.

Rysinger says people are amazed at the quality of the photos which are taken with a Nikon D-3300. “I point it and I shoot it” and lets the camera do the rest.

A Full Life

Rysinger’s family makes a lot of her creativity happen. “My family is super supportive. I can’t drive myself, so they drive me everywhere.”

Rysinger’s mother watches over her daughter closely. “She keeps me busy.” Her grandmother takes her throughout the region to take photographs. 

You’ve got to keep going or else you will be nothing and that’s not cool.
— Rayanne Rysinger

Her aunt says Rysinger would like to be more independent and be free of services. The young woman wants to buy her mother a house–actually, two houses, one for herself and one for her mom.

Although children are not in her future plans, she hopes to one day get married. “I love the idea of love, so that’s important.”

Rysinger takes her ordeal in stride. “It’s just something that happens to some people. You can’t let it stop you from living your life. You’ve got to keep going or else you will be nothing and that’s not cool.”

Rysinger calls her ordeal merely a setback and says she is happy with the direction her life is taking. She recognizes that she might not be able to accomplish some things, but is determined not to waste the creative gifts she has been given and to share them with others.

Whether it’s through her writing, taking photos, or dancing, “I just love, love, love entertaining people. Love it.”

Rysinger said the award reflects her own goals of inspiring others. “One of my goals in life is to inspire as many people as I can. It’s something I feel I need to do.”

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