Winter … ice skating, sledding, a mini-vacation from school as the holidays roll around, but could there be more? Sure, think about starting a hobby or picking up a book. What about venturing out to the library and having some fun as a family? Perhaps it’s below freezing with the winter chill whipping up blowing snow, but inside at several local swimming pools, the water is warm and teachers are ready to instruct young babies and children on the joys and skills of being near and in water. How about a party featuring characters from the most beloved Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker, to start the season off right?
Kansas City Swim Academy
The Kansas City Swim Academy offers swim lessons and teams all year around. However, Mary Jo Klier, the director, says the addition of Infant Survival has her excited. Scott Virden, a licensed and certified teacher who taught physical education and also serves as one of the team coaches, spent about six weeks in Colorado, in intense training to teach the survivor course. Klier says she never wants to hear of another infant drowning in the metropolitan area. “The idea is fairly simple. A child, fully dressed, is able to turn himself or herself over and float. It’s an introductory program and infants need to be able to crawl some.” The pools have to be at least 88 degrees for the infant classes, she says. The first pool will be the Midwest Aquatics at 160th in Overland Park, Kan.
Klier says she has wanted to add the program for 10 years. “We went to see the program and it is mesmerizing to see these infants turn over and float. Then there is a Friday fun day and parents and children get into the water. What they start as children, they will pursue as an activity for a lifetime.”
The academy offers several levels of lessons. Once infants move from Infant Survival, they can head into the Swim, Float, Swim class and those classes move children into lessons. “We feel that every child should know how to swim. It’s a great opportunity to get children to enjoy water. We also want to work with minority communities. Statistically the numbers of drownings in Latino and African American communities are higher.” Klier says swimming is that skill that can benefit lives for a lifetime. “It’s best to get young people to enjoy the water early on,” she says.
Miller Marley School of Dance and Voice
The youth ballet company at Miller Marley School of Dance and Voice presents Clara’s Dream Dec. 1 and 2 at Blue Valley North High School. Performances are 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Each year, the Miller-Marley Youth Ballet opens its doors to aspiring young dancers at the studio who act as guest performers in their annual holiday production of Clara’s Dream, an adaptation of the Nutcracker. The 35-member ensemble presents the winter show and often a spring production as well as featured appearances at schools and cultural events.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Shirley Marley’s ownership and operation of Miller Marley School of Dance and Voice. With dedicated professionals teaching song and dance, thousands of students have learned tap, jazz and ballet over the years. Marley’s training could be seen for 19 years when she served as the director of the Kansas City Chiefettes and for nine years as the children’s choreographer at Starlight Theatre. On three occasions she has been the recipient of Shawnee Mission Theatre in the Park’s “Demmi Award for Outstanding Choreography.” Several students have moved onto stage and film careers.
Johnson County Public Library
At the Johnson County Library, families and children can explore new books and new clubs, even during winter and especially during the two weeks off for the holiday. The library system has book clubs aimed at children who want to explore new books and make new friends. There’s also a Super Sleuths Club that meets monthly and participants are required to stop at the Youth Services desk with a specific code word to find the secret meeting location. Mothers and daughters can even join together to discuss books that have strong female characters. The December book is Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich.
Communications Manager Kasey Riley says the library staff will be soliciting entries for Elementia, the teen literary magazine. Entrants are asked to read a book by Walter Dean Myers and write a poem from a character’s point of view, paint a picture that captures a scene from one of his books, write an essay reflecting the themes presented in one of his books. Myers will be visiting the library system on Feb. 12 for two events.
This is also 75th Anniversary of the Caldecott Medal. “We will be hosting multiple events at each of our 13 locations celebrating past and current Caldecott Award Winning books,” she says. The Caldecott Medal “shall be awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published in the United States during the preceding year.” Some notable books include Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (1940); Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (1942); Blueberries for Sal by McCloskey (1949); The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (1963); Where the Wild Things are by Maurice Sendak (1964); Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola (1976); Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg (1982); Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann (1996); The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (2008); and A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka (2012).
“It’s important to stay connected with the library during the winter because librarians are truly book experts. Just as one would not as a stranger on the street to fix their car rather than a mechanic, one would not want to ask just anyone for reading recommendations in any format,” Riley says. “Librarians make it their business to be voracious readers and we provide ample resources for every taste. Last, there’s nothing more comforting for the mind and souls than curling up with a good book in the winter (even in e-format).”
Ibsen Dance Theatre
When children think about sweet treats dancing in their heads during the holidays, it might be sugar plum fairies dancing. To see the Sugar Plum Fairy, visit Ibsen Dance Theatre Dec. 8 for the Land of Sweets Party featuring Ibsen Ballet Theatre Youth Co. dancers.
Owner and director Susie Ibsen says anyone is welcomed to the holiday party. Tickets are required, but there really is no age limit, she says. “There will be vignettes from the second act of Nutcracker and of course, the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. We will have cookies, cupcakes, candy and punch. After all, it is a party and what would a party be without treats. We are offering another way to celebrate Christmas. It’s early enough in December to help kick off the Christmas season.”
Ibsen Dance Theatre and Ibsen Ballet Theatre Youth Co. performs The Nutcracker ballet every other year, as a benefit for the Northland Christmas Store. While this may be the off year for the full ballet, fans can get a taste of the show. Performers also spend time with the party guests and take pictures with them. The ballet students range in age from sixth grade through high school. They study ballet and other forms of dance at Ibsen.
The Ibsens are also marking the school’s 30th anniversary. “Over the years, the dance program has grown and drama continues moving along. We have added voice lessons. Truly we are a full-service performing arts school,” Susie says. Van and Susie also had a hand in creating Gladstone Theatre in the Park, which just completed its 25th season.