Kenneth Von Heidecke know that “The Nutcracker” will be the first ballet most people attend, so he strives every year to make a lasting impression.
As the director and choreographer of Von Heidecke’s Chicago Festival Ballet production of “The Nutcracker,” Von Heidecke finds satisfaction in presenting a show that usually becomes a family tradition.
“With people who have never seen the ballet before, so many times I’ll hear ‘It was so wonderful. I never knew that I’d like it,’” said Von Heidecke, the founder and director of Von Heidecke’s Chicago Festival Ballet and Von Heidecke’s School of Chicago Festival Ballet. “It makes you feel good. You want to keep presenting it year after year.
“I tell people that they will be surprised. If you like movement, you will enjoy this ballet. And then families return year after year.”
Von Heidecke’s Chicago Festival Ballet production of “The Nutcracker” will be presented on Dec. 1 at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet.
Set to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s classic score, “The Nutcracker” tells the whimsical tale of young Clara and her magical Christmas Eve journey to a land where she encounters a dashing Nutcracker Prince, swirling snowflakes, sugar plum fairies and waltzing flowers. The production features lavish costumes, a growing Christmas tree and a battle between mice and soldiers.
Traditionally, Von Heidecke invites professional dancers to be part of each year’s “Nutcracker,” and then the rest of the roles are filled via open auditions and with dancers from his school. With the 18 professional dancers in this year’s show, a total of 100 performers will appear at the Rialto, which is being presented at the theater for the 19th straight year.
“This year we have some of the strongest solo male dancers that we have ever had,” Von Heidecke said. “Randy Herrera is playing Cavalier, Preston Swovelin is playing the Nutcracker Prince and Jeff Wolfe is playing the Mouse King and other roles.”
Von Heidecke said that by teaming the professional male dancers with the upper-level teenaged girl dancers it gives the young ballet dancers a chance to learn more about the craft.
“The majority of the dancers are teens and upper-level students from our school,” Von Heidecke said. “They are pre-professionals, and being teamed with the male professional dancers, they are like apprentices. It makes for a fantastic experience.”