by Jack Sheedy
Nutmeg Nuggets
for the Register Citizen

TORRINGTON — How do you find and organize 50 years of history and present it in a museum-quality exhibit in less than six months?

When it’s the history of the Nutmeg Ballet, and when the archivists have long been associated with the Nutmeg and have researched and recorded histories before, it’s not that hard, say Denise Warner Limoli and her husband, Michael Limoli.

Denise, Nutmeg’s senior ballet mistress, had earlier created an exhibit on the American Ballet Theatre for the National Dance Museum. And Michael, a principal audition musician at Nutmeg, did extensive historical research resulting in his recent book about the Metropolitan Opera’s former prima ballerina, “Marina Svetlova: A Tribute.” The Limolis were a natural choice when Nutmeg’s board and staff were looking for just the right people to create an exhibit telling the story of the Nutmeg.

Craig Winsor, owner of graphics company Lines & Letters in Torrington, designed and printed the exhibit’s signage and installed it along with the physical exhibits, including costumes and photographs. “Lines & Letters is a sign and graphics company, but the custom stuff like this is where I like to be,” he said. “That’s my niche market.”

A Torrington resident over 20 years, Craig said, “It’s a glimpse into a Nutmeg that I never knew, even being in town this long. And Denise and Michael are perfect for the job. They blew me out of the water with their efficiency. Trying to keep up was a challenge.”

Fittingly, the display is in a spacious room at the Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory at 58 Main Street, and the wall displaying artifacts from past ballet productions abuts the Warner Theatre, where they were performed. That “Warner wall,” as Denise referred to it, highlights past productions of “Coppélia,” “Cinderella,” “La Fille Mal Gardée” and of course “The Nutcracker.”

“That display starts with Nutmeg’s role in saving the Warner in the 1980s,” Michael said.

“Sharon was one of the biggest movers and shakers behind resuscitating the Warner Theatre — not the only person, surely,” Denise said.

The exhibit will also show a brief history in photographs of Torrington School of Ballet, from which young dancers often graduate to Nutmeg. There will be a decade-by-decade timeline, a music display, and a model of theatrical designer Roger LaVoie’s new “Nutcracker” set, which will be used for the first time this December. “The major motivations for the exhibit were the Nutmeg’s 50th anniversary and the new ‘Nutcracker’ set,” said Michael.

Sharon Dante founded Nutmeg in 1969 in a modest studio on Migeon Avenue. For more than 40 years, Nutmeg has produced “The Nutcracker,” and this year it will be produced with a brand-new, professionally designed and built stage set and with the artistic talents of Victoria Mazzarelli, artistic director; Tim Melady, ballet master; and the entire Nutmeg staff.

“The display focuses on the various incarnations of ‘Nutcracker,’ how the designs evolved and how the entire production grew, finishing with a focus on the new set,” said Denise.

Until now, there had been no concentrated, ongoing effort to organize Nutmeg’s history, the Limolis said, but many people have donated items. Many items were found in Nutmeg’s basement.

“There are a lot of places where stuff is — shall we stay stored and sometimes forgotten! Some are in boxes. Some places have stuff in piles. There are many photos with broken frames. We’ve been doing a lot of digging,” Denise said.

What is the value of creating an exhibit?

“I think it’s important that we help people realize the community outreach of the organization and the impact of having Nutmeg here in the community,” Denise said. “It’s important for this town to understand and appreciate what this organization has done and what the organization has meant to the town, as well as the place in the profession that this organization has earned over the years.”

A private showing of the display for the board of directors and staff took place in mid-September. It will be open to the public soon, in coordination with a 50th-anniversary planning meeting. “Now that tickets have gone on sale at the Warner and Bushnell for the new ‘Nutcracker,’ we will be announcing shortly the opening of the exhibit,” said Denise.

“I think it’s important that we help people realize the community outreach of the organization and the impact of having Nutmeg here in the community,” Denise Limoli said. “It’s important for this town to understand and appreciate what this organization has done and what the organization has meant to the town, as well as the place in the profession that this organization has earned over the years.”
Nutmeg Nuggets