Dancing Across Generations
Prima ballerina mother and aspiring daughter at the Nutmeg Conservatory
Mother and daughter Alma Evertz and Victoria Mazzarelli, artistic director for Nutmeg Conservatory of Dance.
Photo by Douglas Foulke
Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You can go home again. Born and raised in Torrington, Victoria Mazzarelli left as a young girl to pursue her dream of being a prima ballerina. She traveled the world, won a prestigious prize at 18, made a name and a career for herself—and then she came home. She is now artistic director for
Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts in her hometown. In that role she has the distinct pleasure of teaching other young girls to follow their dream of being a dancer. And one of those girls happens to be her daughter Alma Evertz. “As a child I was always dancing, but I also loved swimming, gymnastics, and other activities. My mother was constantly driving me to classes and she finally said I had to focus on just one activity. So I chose to dance,” says Mazzarelli.
She was enrolled at Nutmeg Ballet, which had just been founded by Sharon Dante. Mazzarelli was allowed to organize her scholastic work so that she could get out early and rehearse. “At that time, in the ’70s, Nutmeg was housed in a building on Water Street,” says Mazzarelli, “so I walked from school to the studio, ran up the stairs, and danced. It was all I really wanted to do.”
Dante entered the young Mazzarelli in various competitions. By the time she was 17, she had traveled to places as far-flung as Bulgaria and New York. She entered the New York International Ballet Competition and was awarded the only gold medal given that year. “It was a dream come true for both Sharon and me,” says Mazzarelli. “She was driven to have a prize-winning student and there I was. That really set me on my chosen career path.”
Following that triumph, Mazzarelli was invited to join the Basel Ballet in Switzerland under the direction of Heinz Spoerli. Soon she was made a principal dancer and held leading roles, choreographed by such masters as Hans van Manen, Jiri Kylian, and William Forsythe, responsible for her move to the Frankfurt Ballet in 1990. She remained there as principal dancer until 1996. Among the major roles in her European career were the Black Swan in Swan Lake and Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker.
During her time in Basel, Mazzarelli met Thomas Evertz, an actor she would eventually marry. “We were in the same building but in different studios,” she recalls. “I was rehearsing and he was doing a voiceover. He had never seen a Balanchine ballet before and he asked someone who that dancer was. And that was it.” They have been married for 23 years and have two children.
After 20 years abroad, Mazzarelli came home to begin another stage of her career. “My mother became ill in 2003,” she says, “and I needed to come back. After she died, I realized that I wanted to stay in Torrington.”
Dante offered her the opportunity to join the Nutmeg to teach. She has since become artistic director, a role she cherishes, particularly since her daughter is now one of her students. “I always wanted to follow my mother into the studio,” Alma says. “I’d watch my mom dance and teach and wanted to be part of that, so I started to take classes as soon as I was old enough.”
“Alma is much more organized than I was,” Mazzarelli says. “She does all the research, fills out an application for a study program and presents with all the facts and asks if she can do it.”
Being the daughter of a prima ballerina in a class of hopeful young girls is challenging. The student has to accept criticism and the teacher has to be aware of not playing favorites. “I do try to impress her,” says Alma. “But sometimes I can tell by watching her face how she’s responding to my work.”
“It’s difficult,” says Mazzarelli. “If she’s having an off-day and her mother’s at the front of the room, it’s hard to maintain objectivity. Alma handles it with poise.”
Alma spent two weeks last summer in Dresden for a ballet intensive. Thus far she has danced one part that her mother has performed—in Arabian Spring.
Mazzarelli covets her role as a teacher and choreographer and having been on the other side herself, she understands the pitfalls and the joys that dancing brings. The competition is much greater than it was when she began.
“You are a dancer first. It’s sometimes grueling, but these students are so devoted and talented. It makes me proud to be involved with them.”