Rialto’s ‘Nutcracker’ puzzle is nearly complete
By Randall G. Mielke For Sun-Times Media November 17, 2011 11:32AM
Principal dancers, who are also married, Corinne Emenegger Alimbetova and Askar Alimbetov, star in The Rialto Square Theatre’s “Nutcracker.” | Courtesy of the Rialto Square Theatre
Von Heidecke’s Chicago Festival Ballet — ‘The Nutcracker’
♦ 2 p.m. Nov. 27
♦ Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet
♦ Tickets, $20.50-$38
♦ (815) 726-6600
Updated: November 17, 2011 6:32PM
As the director and choreographer of “The Nutcracker,” Ken Von Heidecke’s preliminary work in staging the production is a little like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
“I have to sculpt a portion of a ballet at a time and no one really knows where I am going with it,” said Von Heidecke, the founder and director of Von Heidecke’s Chicago Festival Ballet and Von Heidecke’s School of Chicago Festival Ballet. “Then, when we rehearse all together, they finally understand how it fits together.”
Von Heidecke’s Chicago Festival Ballet production of “The Nutcracker” will be presented Nov. 27 at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet. Set to 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, waltzing flowers and giant mice.
What makes things more difficult for Von Heidecke is that the entire company does not perform together until the week or so before the performance. 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. In addition, local students are added to the cast.
“So, with not having everyone there all the time I have to work a bit abstractly,” he said.
Eighty performers will appear in the Rialto show, which is being presented at the theater for the 17th straight year.
In addition to 20 professional dancers from Russia, Switzerland and Hungary, among other countries, the show will feature 40 advanced-level students and 20 local youngsters who appear as angels, which are basically walk-on roles in the top of the second act.
Von Heidecke believes that the advanced-level students learn a great deal from dancing with the professional ballet dancers.
“It is an amazing apprenticeship experience for them,” he said. “A talented, young girl learning how to be partnered with a boy in a ballet is an art in itself.”
And although the schedule can get hectic for Von Heidecke, he finds satisfaction in presenting the final product.
“I have such great respect for Tchaikovsky,” he said. “He was a tremendous talent and there is genius in the composition. I never tire of it.”