Hans van Manen has been called the Mondrian of ballet, the Versace of ballet, the Pinter of ballet and the Antonioni of ballet. (His) distinctive personal style mixes formal austerity and glassy elegance with erotic charge.
Each of his pieces reveals our own passions and delusions, pride and solitude, our loud laughter and bitter tears.
As a choreographer, you’re actually always stark naked... I start with nothing. The dancers stand waiting for you. You stand waiting for yourself.
You get those people who think they shouldn’t be influenced, and they should just be themselves. I’d like to know what that is — "being yourself".
Without repertoire, there is no tradition. And without tradition, there is no connection with all that has been done prior to the present. Tradition is not something of the past. Tradition is what we do with the past today. The future is about discovering the good things of the past and building on them.
And the deeper ideas? Oh, I just leave them to the audience. They’re intelligent enough to find their own interpretation of what they’re offered visually. I never mean more than what you actually see.
I’m a total Calvinist. Everything I think is superfluous has to be chucked out.
I'm very bad at telling stories, and that's the reason why I never make full-length ballets. I prefer to make it very short and be as precise as possible.
The thing that’s extremely important — to humanity, I could almost say — is curiosity. But I mean true curiosity. Not the curiosity about what’s happening to the woman next door.
Born in Nieuwer Amstel in 1932. He studied under Françoise Adret, Nora Kiss and famous founder of the Netherlands Ballet Academy in Hague and the Netherlands Ballet Sonia Gaskell. Hans van Manen began his career in 1951 as a member of Sonia Gaskell's Ballet Recital. In 1952 he joined the Nederlandse Opera Ballet, where he created his first ballet, Feestgericht (1957). Later he joined Roland Petit's company in Paris. He began to work with the Nederlands Dans Theater in 1960, first as a dancer (until 1963), next as a choreographer, then as Artistic Director (1961–1971). For the following two years he worked as a freelance choreographer before joining the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam in 1973. From 1988–2003 Hans van Manen was a resident choreographer of NDT, in 2003 he joined the Dutch National Ballet as a resident choreographer.
He is one of the few choreographers who has managed to popularize contemporary dance as a mixture of classical ballet and modern dance. Being an author of over 120 ballets performed worldwide, van Manen is deservedly considered one of the most established choreographers of contemporary ballet. His personal style is always recognizable. Typical for his works clarity of lines and simplicity of composition are born from the chosen musical material, but the choice itself is, as a rule, rather eclectic. Despite all the emotional richness, the characters of his ballets are never sentimental. The core thing is that he spellbinds the audience with an exceptional, utterly polished beauty of movement.
«Is Hans van Manen already a classic or not? This question sounds as frequently as this title appears near his name. And it’s not just a convenient cliché as it seems to be. If you rewatch his ballets after a long time, you suddenly start to notice thousands of details which were not clear, or not remarkable or not perceived in full measure beforehand. This enlightenment may literally shock you, as if you look into your own past and understand that everything there had a totally other meaning” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)