She rushed in with a torn ballet slipper and yelled, “Holly, I need shoes! I’m auditioning!”
Excitement filled the air this Saturday in February at 58 Main Street in Torrington, Connecticut.
In Studio One, Susan Szabo the Pedagogy and Children’s ballet mistress taught a room full of young dancers with music from Tchaikovsky. Parents flowed to and from the Torrington School of Ballet lobby entrance where they enjoyed the goodies in the children’s bake sale. Before teaching a class, Artistic Director Victoria Mazzarelli provided an in depth tour of the campus for the auditioning students while the “Parent’s Network” community hosted tours for their parents. And in the Dance Shop at The Nutmeg, a dedicated team helped a steady flow of the parents and students alike with anything they needed when the young dancer burst through the door.
After an inspection of the shoe, they found it could be mended without needing to sell a new set. Kim was behind the counter and whipped out a sewing kit. “When do you need them?” she asked.
“Three minutes,” was the reply.
Kim set right to work sewing the specialty shoes while the student breathed a sigh of relief. During those three minutes a parent came in with a question about a product and a child came in for another. And suddenly the mend had been made and the young lady with an audition was ready for her important day of dance.
Such is life in a snapshot within the internationally acclaimed Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory.
Today was a special day in that approximately 30 young dancers were auditioning for openings in the summer program. There’s a 2 week program in June and August and a 4 week program in July. Auditions are held in 40 cities across the country but Torrington is lucky because auditions are held once a month here. Ultimately the program can house approximately 42 resident young ladies and 12 resident young gentlemen. Students arrived with their parents and photos, a head shot and an “arabesque shot”, They filled out the registration, took the tour of the expansive campus and then those who wished to audition joined a class.
From the observation room, one could look down to the grand majestic glass window performance area to view a class taught by Eleanor D’Antuono. If Ballet had a “Hall of Fame”, D’Antuono would be in it; she was prima ballerina for the American Ballet Theatre , she was the first American to be invited to dance with the Kirov Ballet in what was then called Leningrad, and first American ballerina to perform in mainland China. In the office of Sharon Dante, Founder and Executive Director of The Nutmeg, there is a photo of D’Antuono dancing with Rudolf Nureyev. The baseball equivalent to having Eleanor D’Antuono as a dance instructor is having Hank Aaron teach his swing to young professionals, some of whom will make it to the major leagues. Many young dancers who danced here today will join the professional world of dance at some point in their future and it is not a stretch to project that perhaps the next Baryshnikov or Makarova might already be honing their craft at The Nutmeg.
I don’t know whether the young dancer who needed the temporary repairs on her ballet slipper eventually passed the audition or not. The romantic in me hopes that she did and that fast work of the team at the Dance Shop played some part in her personal dancing history. Still, the skills one learns at The Nutmeg transcend the world of dance. One learns discipline, accountability, personal responsibility but also fellowship and community to do your best for yourself and for one another. That”s what happened at the Dance Shop, in the registration room, at the bake sale table, during the student tours and the parent tours and especially during class. That’s the true story of today and every day at The Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory. Today was a day when so many converged on a small corner of northwest Connecticut and resolved to build big dreams together.