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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014

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Young students from the Milwaukee Ballet School and Academy rehearse a scene from "The Nutcracker."
Young students from the Milwaukee Ballet School and Academy rehearse a scene from "The Nutcracker." (Photo: Colleen Jurkiewicz)
From left to right: Isabella Ybarra, Sara Mulrooney, Cassie Dondlinger and Mia Tynan.
From left to right: Isabella Ybarra, Sara Mulrooney, Cassie Dondlinger and Mia Tynan. (Photo: Colleen Jurkiewicz)
The soldiers carry mock rifles into battle.
The soldiers carry mock rifles into battle. (Photo: Colleen Jurkiewicz)

Milwaukee Ballet's youngest dancers perform in "The Nutcracker"

Anna Pavlova, the brilliant, legendary and eccentric turn-of-the-century dancer who revolutionized the practice of ballet, once declared that if she could not dance, she would die.  

Most little girls want to be ballerinas. But only a few actually do it. Because the business of ballet, as it turns out, is a lot different than it may seem in childlike imaginations. Not as many tutus as you would think, and many more gnarled and bloody feet than you would ever expect. A few opportunities to shine, but many opportunities for hard work and disappointment.

But if you feel like Pavlova did, you don’t have a choice. Dance or die.

I attended the Milwaukee Ballet School and Academy for several years as a tween/teenager and found it to be an extremely rewarding, if challenging, experience. I was fortunate to participate in the Milwaukee Ballet Company’s production of "The Nutcracker" for two years as a Toy Soldier. For a dozen nights in December I slicked my hair back, wore a white spandex suit and mask and marched out onto the Uihlein Hall stage, pretending to be a boy.

Not exactly a romantic tableau – but it was one of the best times of my life. Some girls have trouble forgetting their first boyfriends – I have trouble forgetting ballet. Even though I moved on, I will always be a ballerina at heart. And when I hear Tchaikovsky’s score for the "battle scene" between the mice and toy soldiers, I’ll always hear the voice of Nancy McCloud, Milwaukee Ballet School and Academy teacher, counting off the steps to the carefully choreographed fight.

I’ve always been grateful to the school for allowing me and many other young artists the opportunity to study and perform with professionals in a field we love. Twelve years after my time there, the Milwaukee Ballet continues to allow students the opportunity to audition for roles in the annual company production of "The Nutcracker" (as well as several other productions, depending on the need for children dancers). "The …

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Lake Michigan may be frozen over at the marina in Port Washington, but there is still plenty to do and see in the quaint little town.
Lake Michigan may be frozen over at the marina in Port Washington, but there is still plenty to do and see in the quaint little town. (Photo: Courtesy of City of Port Washington)

Christmas in the 'burbs

There’s plenty to see and do in the city of Milwaukee during the holidays. But don’t forget about the ‘burbs. Our neighbors to the north, south and west can throw a great Christmas party, too.

Cedarburg 
Cedar Creek Settlement pulls out the stops for Christmas, hosting Festive Friday Eves during November and December. With themes like "Santa's Workshop," "A Taste of Christmas" and "Frantic Friday Eve" there's something for everyone in the Settlement's antique stores, boutiques and restaurants.

Go down Washington Avenue and visit the Washington House Inn’s 100-year-old Feather Tree Exhibit or the nearby Stagecoach Inn’s Antique Santa Exhibit. The General Store Museum and Historic Kuhefuss House Museum are also open for several weekends in December and present themed holiday events.  There is also an impressive line-up of performances at the Cedarburg Cultural Center and the Cedarburg Performing Arts Center. The beautifully-restored Rivoli Theater hosts a Holiday Film Festival Dec. 14–23, giving families the options of viewing their favorite Christmas movies like "Miracle of 34th Street," "Elf," and "It’s a Wonderful Life" in a classic theater setting.  

Visit cedarburgchristmas.com for more information.

Caledonia
The Christmas Carnival of Lights is a mile-long display of 1.3 million lights on over 500 trees at the Jellystone Campground, 8425 State Road 38 in Caledonia. Owned and operated by the Isaacson family, this holiday extravaganza is now in its fourth year. The family spends five weeks custom-making every display in this light show. See Santa’s Workshop, a 3,700-square-foot building covered in 31,000 lights synchronized to music. Enjoy a 200-foot light tunnel that plays Christmas songs, the sight of gingerbread houses, a deep blue sea with dolphins and a 50-foot serpent and an all-white winter wonderland.

The best part? You can stay in the warmth of your car! And it benefits a good cause: one dollar from every car is donated to the Make-A…

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