Where did your love of ballet originate?
Both my parents were academic school teachers growing up. My sister, twin brother and I attended the school my mother taught at in Antwerp, Belgium. My brother and I were skinny and light at the time, so the doctor suggested we do some gymnastics, and combined with my mother’s love of music, and the ballet education offered at the school – perfect!
Boys in ballet are always well liked, so I developed and continued through to high school. My sister had to stop due to limitations with her physicality, while my brother took his dancing more seriously. I was a bit of a dreamer and actually wanted to be a clown, while spending a lot of time making string puppets and creating artworks; painting, drawing, wood work. However, at 16 my ballet teacher told me I needed to seriously focus, start working or stop dancing. I woke up, smelt the coffee and started training more seriously.
How did you break into the industry?
In 1980, I went to the Prix de Lausanne competition and became a finalist, and simultaneously I was offered a place at the Royal Ballet of Flanders. However, early on I decided I wanted to also perform the big classical repertoire ballets, which they didn’t perform at the Royal Ballet of Flanders. After one year I moved onto London Festival Ballet (now the English National Ballet) and at age 21 joined the Dutch National Ballet. I was promoted to Principal Dancer about five years later, having gone through all the ranks, and I danced there until the end of my on-stage career, age 39, as I was asked to become Assistant Artistic Director of the Company.
During my career at Dutch National Ballet, I started teaching ballet and pas de deux classes jointly for both vocational schools in Amsterdam and The Hague. I also organised choreographic workshops for the Company.
What was one of the highlights of your stage career?
My identical twin brother was also a Principal dancer. He left Flanders and went to Berlin Staatsoper, continued his career in Munich Bayerishes Staatsballett, before moving on to Roland Petit Company in Marseille, France. He danced a couple years longer than me, retiring at 41 and became a Ballet Master in Scala Milano, before moving to Zurich as ballet master.
We were both very fortunate in our careers and danced as a guest with other Companies and on several international galas. We also regularly performed a pas de deux together – the first time, I learned the choreography from video, my brother flew into Amsterdam, we rehearsed it once together and then performed it on stage with the orchestra for a ballet Gala. Because we’re so similar in body, coordination and musicality, it’s kind of like dancing with your own body.