Kaitlin Mahr spent almost half of her life this time of the year at rehearsals for the La Crosse Dance Centre’s production of “The Nutcracker Ballet.”Dancing was her passion, and the annual “Nutcracker” production was one of her favorite things.
During rehearsal Tuesday for this year’s production, dancers and instructors who knew Mahr were shocked, stunned and saddened by her death.
Her obituary was quite unusual because it was very straightforward about her cause of death: “Kaitlin Elizabeth Mahr, 20, lost her battle with depression and died of an accidental overdose on Monday.”
Mahr was a junior honors student and a member of a dance troupe at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis.
Tears and hugs started rehearsal for the dance company as the word spread of her death. The older company members shared memories and watched videos of Mahr dancing.
Company members plan to make T-shirts with Mahr’s picture on them and will dedicate this year’s “Nutcracker” performances to her.
“Kaitlin was always the one who made everybody feel good and happy when they were really down,” said Nikki Balsamo, artistic director of the La Crosse Dance Centre. “She always told me, ‘Don’t be crabby, life’s too short.'”
Balsamo said Mahr was fun-loving and gracious, and was an advocate for others.
“Kaitlin was outspoken and stood up to those who were mistreated and went out of her way to make them feel better,” Balsamo said.
“She was a very talented dancer with those beautiful long lines as a dancer,” she said. “She was tall and graceful.”
Mahr danced in nine “Nutcracker” productions, and was one of the few students who danced in the ballet all the way through high school. Unlike most girls who dance, Mahr never wanted the leading role of Maria.
She always had her heart set on the solo Arabian dance, and she got the part in her last production in 2004 as a senior at Onalaska High School.
Amy Vollmar, a 16-year-old junior at Aquinas High School who has the role of Maria this year, said Mahr was her role model and mentor. Vollmar said she was young when she moved up to the advanced class.
“Kaitlin was the first person to welcome me to the class,” Vollmar said. “She always made everyone laugh and smile.”
During one rehearsal of the snowflakes, Mahr decided to do cartwheels just to break up the routine.
“We all laughed,” Vollmar said. “Dancing was a lot of fun with her around.”
Terry Rindfleisch can be reached at trindfleisch@ lacrossetribune.com or (608) 791-8227.
***Article courtesy of the La Crosse Tribune***