Kenneth von Heidecke, founder and chief choreographer of the Chicago Festival Ballet and School, passed away suddenly on December 11, 2021.
Born December 30, 1952, he graduated from Elmhurst College. He began his ballet career in 1975, later becoming a choreographer for the Lyric Opera in Chicago. Von Heidecke has worked his way up the ranks of many top companies. Most importantly, he was chosen by legendary Prima Ballerina Assoluta Maria Tallchief to appear in the 1975 world premiere of George Balanchine’s “Orfeo ed Euridice”, a revolutionary moment in his career.
Over the years, Tallchief continued to train von Heidecke in Balanchine’s repertoire and called him a protégé.
In 1989 he opened his ballet school and in 1990 founded his company, the Chicago Festival Ballet, which presented a repertoire of classical, romantic and neoclassical works in venues across the United States.
The company also began producing an annual “The Nutcracker” tour, which is now a staple in the Chicago area and a highly demanded production in cities across the country. In 1996, von Heidecke had the opportunity to become ballet master of the US Olympic gymnastics team.
Kenneth von Heidecke’s alumni include US figure skater Evan Lycecek (2010 figure skating gold medalist and 2009 figure skating world champion); Joanna Wozniak (lead dancer with Joffrey and featured in the movie “Save the Last Dance”); Christina Salerno (former dancer with the Royal Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, Zurich Ballet); and Victoria Born (dancer for the American Ballet Theater, lead role in the film “Center Stage”, ballerina in the Broadway production of “Phantom of the Opera”).
Von Heidecke’s works have appeared on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight news show, WTTW’s “Arts Across Illinois” entertainment special, PBS’s “Making of an Opera” and a PBS documentary on the life of Maria Tallchief. In 2008, he was inducted into the Fox Valley Hall of Fame. He has appeared on ABC, WGN, and NBC, and in 2018 filmmaker and composer Stuart Meyer made a documentary on the life of von Heidecke.
Von Heidecke was a brilliant choreographer and an inspiration to the dance community. He was a renowned choreographer for opera and ballet companies around the world, having choreographed over 60 operas and 80 ballets. His vision and legacy will live on in the many dancers he has taught and inspired over the years, in the many students who continue to study and be inspired at VH Dance Center, and through his magnificent choreography that will continue. to be performed by the Chicago Festival Ballet. .
To support the education and development of future dancers and to continue his legacy, tax-deductible contributions are appreciated and may be made to the Kenneth von Heidecke Memorial Scholarship Program, through the non-profit organization 501 ( c) (3) VH Ballet at www.vhdancecenter.com, or by sending a check payable to “VH Ballet” to VH Dance Center, 4222 Meridian Parkway, Suite 100, Aurora, IL 60504.
Please include the “Kenneth von Heidecke Memorial Scholarship” in the line of the verification note.