Susan Gartell is more than the average college student, she’s a professional ballet dancer. Although Gartell has danced in a variety of performances, her well-known roles have been in Milwaukee Ballet’s The Nutcracker.
Gartell is the first in her family to take up dance. She started ballet lessons when she was 7 years old. Over the years, her supportive parents encouraged Garter while she transitioned from dancing as a hobby to creating a career. In 2004, Garter joined the Milwaukee Ballet as trainee; she formally joined in 2006.
“(Dancing) takes a lot of work and hours so most in the company have been doing it basically for their entire lives,” said Gartell.
Even though Gartell has been with the Milwaukee Ballet for 12 years, she believes that each day is another opportunity to learn.
“The nice thing about ballet is that it provides you with a nice base so you can pick up other forms of dance so easily,” said Gartell.
For Gartell, ballet has also helped her improve her overall confidence. She admits to experiencing stage fright, but has learned through repetitive practices and performances that the experience becomes easier.
“The great thing about training is that your muscles will pick up the choreography even if your brain doesn’t,” said Gartell. “The minute you are on stage, your body takes over and the adrenaline takes over and it ends up being an amazing time.”
Gartell has performed in The Nutcracker multiple times, but her memorable role was Snow Queen. These performances have become a holiday tradition.
While juggling professional ballet with school, Gartell has nothing but nice words for Panther staff.
“It’s definitely been very challenging, but UWM has been very flexible,” said Gartell.
Her course load is light and usually made up of online classes. Because The Nutcracker falls during finals week, Gartell says her professors allow her to reschedule final exams. This May, Gartell will finish studying political science and accept her diploma.
“Having a degree is something important to me,” said Gartell.
After graduation, Gartell plans to continue performing with the Milwaukee Ballet.
“Ballet was something that I knew I wanted to do,” said Gartell. “I’m lucky enough to do it as my profession.”