Watch photos of their creations for NDT here

Choreographers duo Imre van Opstal & Marne van Opstal

Choreographers duo Imre van Opstal & Marne van Opstal

Portrait | Imre van Opstal & Marne van Opstal

As a child they collected signatures from the dancers of Nederlands Dans Theater, their dream was to dance there themselves. And that dream came true.

Text: Bert-Jan Brouwer
Photo: Rahi Rezvani
Online editor: Larissa Schaule Jullens
Interview from: MASTERS

Photo: Rahi Rezvani for MASTERS

What kind of family did you end up in?

Marne: “It’s interesting that you say ‘end up’, because that’s how we feel it too. My mother believes that children choose the parents to whom they are born. Myrthe (1987) and Xanthe (1992) also chose them as parents.”
Imre: “We really are a family of doers. Both my father – an engineer – and mother like to tackle things, they are people who like to do things themselves. The renovation of their house? They don’t hire painters, they do it themselves.”

Marne: “They are very sporty: my mother has swum with the Dutch youth team, my father likes ice skating, windsurfing and volleyball. And they are also creative. My mother studied cabaret art and loves painting and sculpting, my father plays the piano and guitar and was in an African band. There were eight large drums at our house, and we would be banging on those things every weekend. The neighbors will not have had an easy time, haha. From childhood we had such creative influences around us. My mother always motivated us to play with clay or finger paint. We did a lot with the four of us, we didn’t need friends to play.”

The strange Van Opstal family. But our parents have always fought for us and our individuality.

Imre van Opstal

You grew up in Velden, a Catholic village close to Venlo. How was that?

Imre: “We had quite a few eyes on us: a father who played the drums, a son who danced… The strange Van Opstal family. But our parents have always fought for us and our individuality.

At school I was bullied because I was different from other girls and mainly played with boys. Besides, they thought I was stupid. I had been diagnosed with dyslexia and ADD, but at the time it was not well known what that entailed. In my third year they let me down. My mother arranged for me to join Marne’s class. Then my scores went up a lot. Not unimportant, because to be able to go to dance school, I needed at least a HAVO recommendation.”

Marne: “I was also bullied. “Boys don’t dance,” I was told. But I am very stubborn and also quite stubborn: I went against it. When I was in group 8, I went on a theater tour with Introdans for Youth, my first real professional experience. My class was invited to come and have a look. From the moment they saw what I was doing, I felt that there was understanding, appreciation for what I had been working so hard on all these years.”

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What did you do on weekends and holidays?

Marne: “We always played outside. Building huts, catching frogs, jumping ditches … The rule was: when the streetlights go on, you come home. We didn’t always do that. Then my mother drove around the village by car to see where we were hanging out.”

Imre: “During the summer holidays we always took our Volkswagen van to the south of France. We stayed there for six weeks at the campsite.”


Imre and Marne made their debut as a choreographer duo with LiNK (2014) for Up & Coming Choreographers. In the 2016-2017 season they made their debut for the regular programming of NDT 2 with The Gray (2017). After their acclaimed first work for NDT 1, Take Root (2019), they created Baby don’t hurt me in February 2021 with the dancers of NDT 1.

Watch photos of their creations here

Baby don't hurt me

Together with dramaturge Fabienne Vegt, these two young makers (…) created a solid choreography, which touches not only because you see dancers like Kyle Clark exuberantly being themselves, with lipstick, dress and earrings, but also because the collective celebrates this liberation theatrically with clever costumes, contorted faces and cleverly orchestrated skips with high knees.

de Volkskrant
on Baby don’t hurt me