by Han Ebbelaar, former dancer & founder Dansersfonds '79
choreography: vijf schetsen by hans van manen
photo: ger van leeuwen
“Hans van Manen created a great many of pieces for me and Alexandra. The first three ones were Symphony in Three Movements (1963), Essay in Stilte (1965) and Metaforen (1965). But I would say this particular ballet, Vijf schetsen (1966), was the pinnacle of our creative partnership – the genuine pas de deux. It’s a stunning production praised by audiences all over the world.
Although the piece was originally created for Nederlands Dans Theater, we wound up touring with it at various stages. It basically became our signature performance and we performed it in the United States, at the Dutch National Ballet, and even, in 1971, in Russia. It was the first pas de deux created by Hans that would be performed in Russia. An exciting and surreal moment for us. The dancers in Vijf schetsen are semi-naked, clad only in nude fabrics and leaves. A fact that made it pretty nerve-racking for us and – at that time – a fact that meant we first needed to submit the production for approval to a Russian committee. Backed by a string orchestra, we performed the ballet before a large jury, whose members were all seated separately, scattered around the auditorium. The curtain fell, and you could hear a pin drop – there was no applause, nothing. No one dared to speak; no one knew if the production had been any good. Then the female director of the conservatory stood up and said: “I wish I had danced a pas de deux as stunning as this one in my youth.” Only then were we given permission to perform the piece before a Russian audience.
The ballet was groundbreaking for Russia as well as contemporary dance. Vijf schetsen demonstrates the talent of Hans to incorporate the academic dance tradition into a modern choreography – which is entirely original and his own. The photograph signifies the strength of our collaboration, of which I have very fond memories.”