In the 30 years since von Heidecke started his studio, von Heidecke still attracts “a steady stream of students” to his classes, but the intense dedication to dance is rarely seen.
“Nobody takes six days a week, maybe one girl will,” von Heidecke said. “It used to be the requirement. Now we can’t even require it anymore. The kids are so busy with extracurricular that the parents encourage that they don’t focus on one.”
Even students planning to dance professionally often stop lessons after high school, he said.
“But ballet doesn’t work that way,” von Heidecke said. “The next few years are most important if they’re serious about auditioning into a professional company. I have so many connections to guide them as to which auditions. But they don’t do that as much.”
Also, von Heidecke is finding it more difficult to incorporate dancers from local studios into "The Nutcracker."
Since the inception of his version of "The Nutcracker," von Heidecke has always auditioned local dancers to be part of the production in the form of mice or soldiers.
Some of those students actually toured with the company and performed in "The Nutcracker" in such states as Kentucky and West Virginia.
Any student not selected for mice or soldiers automatically became an angel, a less demanding role, von Heidecke said.
“I never believed in turning down any kids,” von Heidecke said. “I have a soft heart. I cannot say no no any little kids that want to be in it.”
Participating in "The Nutcracker" is also an opportunity for local dancers to participate in an authentic ballet, he feels.
“True ballet is not taught at every school in the United States,” von Heidecke said. “It’s a definite art form…I see a lot of ballets and they are less classical and they don’t go through the same classical laws anymore.
"A ballet can still be contemporary, but the laws are just like the same laws that govern a really refined classical pianist who maybe is gong to play a modern piece but they still have to know how play Beethoven.
"So what happens is that you’re getting dancers with less technique and doing choreography that is adapted to what they can do. And that’s sort of sad, instead of raising themselves to the standard.:
Many modern dancers don’t even understand what those standard are, he feels.
“They tell me, ‘I have seen the best’ and I have to keep quiet and not insult their tastes, but they don’t realize I’ve seen the best,” von Heidecke said.
For instance, when von Heidecke was studying dance int the 1970s, his role model was Rudolf Nureyev.
“He was so magnetic and so technical and also a great artist, that there was an incredible influx of American boys wanting to study dance,” von Heidecke said.