Hans van Manen was born in 1932 in Nieuwer Amstel in The Netherlands.
He 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). He subsequently 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 and finally as Artistic Director (1961-1971). For the following two years he worked as a freelance choreographer before joining Het Nationale Ballet in Amsterdam in 1973. From 1988-2003 Hans van Manen was a resident choreographer with NDT, and in 2003 he joined Het Nationale Ballet as a resident choreographer.
His body of work features more than one hundred and twenty ballets. Outside The Netherlands, he has staged his ballets for such companies as the Stuttgarter Ballett, the Bayerisches Staatsballett in Munich, the Berliner Staatsoper, the Houston Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, the Pennsylvania Ballet, Great Britain’s Royal Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet, the Wiener Staatsoper, the Tanz-Forum in Cologne, the Compañía Nacional de Danza and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Hans van Manen has also been awarded numerous prizes. In 1991 he received the Sonia Gaskell Prize for his entire body of work and the Choreography Prize from the Holland Theatre Guild for Two. In 1992, his thirty-fifth year as a choreographer, he was knighted by the Queen of The Netherlands (the Order of Orange Nassau).
In 1993 he was awarded the prestigious German Tanzpreis for his influence on German dance internationally over the past twenty years. In 1996 the Dutch COC awarded him the Bob Angelo Medallion for “the way in which he portrays men and women, human relations and sexuality in his ballets and photography... which can aptly be named liberating in every way.”
In 1997 he received the Gino Tani International Prize in the category “Dance”. In 1998, at the Edinburgh International Festival in Scotland, Hans van Manen was honoured with a retrospective; his oeuvre was crowned with an Archangel, the Edinburgh Festival Critics’ Award.
In 2000 he received the highly prestigious Erasmus Prize for his outstanding achievements in Dutch dance. In 2004 Hans van Manen received the Music Award of the German city of Duisburg. In 2005 Hans van Manen was awarded the Benois de la danse in he category “Lifetime Achievement”; he also received the Grand Pas award. On the occasion of his seventy-fifth birthday Hans van Manen was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion. The insignia were presented to him by Amsterdam’s mayor Job Cohen, concluding the gala premiere of the Hans van Manen Festival. These special decorations were awarded to van Manen because of his outstanding contribution to dance.
In addition to his career as a choreographer, Hans van Manen is also an acclaimed photographer, with his works being exhibited all over the world.