STILLWATER, Minn. - Every performance of The Nutcracker the St. Croix Ballet performs is special, but Sunday's matinee and evening productions hold extra meaning.
"It's been great and I've loved every minute of it," says Karla Sweeney. "It's been a great pleasure."
From the ground up, Sweeney started the St. Croix Ballet and has directed The Nutcracker for all of its 22-years, but the cancer she's battling is taking a stronger hold on her. Her voice is nearly gone and her muscles are weaker. It means she's passing the torch to other instructors to manage the school and the annual performances.
"To teach children how to move and do something that is beautiful and healthy is a great privilege," says Sweeney. "I think it's all God's grace."
Cast members shared memories prior to Sunday's sold-out show.
"She has taught me so much," says Rebecca Franke, a student at St. Croix Ballet. "She's a great person and it will be hard not seeing her."
The ballet school began in 22 years ago in Karla Sweeney's basement. It has since grown to more than 150 students each year.
"To see these kids from age five learn and grow is gratifying," says Sweeney. "It's all flown by."
Sweeney has stage four breast cancer. She has fought back since 1999.
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