I'm afraid to forget your smile

I’m afraid to forget your smile meditates on the moment of letting go as a transition to surrender and loss. A moment so tangible and ephemeral that time seems to stand still and where life resonates in memory all the stronger. This work was created for the Hessian State Ballet, in collaboration with six dancers and a 16 head choir under the guidance of Ines Kaun.

’16 bodies sit on benches in the middle of the stage in a square that is open to the front. Six other bodies lie in the marked-out area, illuminated by a glaring light that falls on them from above. The sound of collective voices rises to a chorale. As if at a secret sign, the bodies begin to beat their legs on the ground in alternating rhythms. A rhythm like a drumbeat that grips other parts of their bodies and sends them through the room in a beating choreography. A contrast between sacred-looking sublimity and its earthly resonance in a creature-looking body image. Two forces which, although different in impression, work together since both find their expression in the body.

In their new creation I’m afraid to forget your smile, the Dutch siblings Imre & Marne van Opstal are responsible for a physically strong choreography that demonstrates the fragility of humans as physical beings as well as their strength in dealing with their own finitude. Like two inseparably interwoven threads, the duo also links the existential duality of life and death on their artistic levels of expression. Voice and movement work together and against each other in this piece.

In a two-part structure, the first part seems to describe the struggle each and every one of us wages with memories and emotions. The dance is rooted in the body, counteracting the uplifting voices of the choir. Broken within themselves, solos and duets take place, personal individual acts that are offset by shared moments of togetherness. In between, there are always moments of rest. Silence that rings loud in the ears. Looks that cast lines of sight before the dancers find themselves in the group. A moment of hope, community, eternity. In the second part, a stronger bond with the music appears through the choreography. The dancers’ bodies detach themselves from their gathering and form collective body images; These visualize the polyphony of the choir in their choreography striving for unity: moments of coherence that do not last, but are remembered in the awareness of their transience.’ – Lucas Herrmann

This work was created for the Hessian State Ballet, in collaboration with six dancers and a 16 head choir under the guidance of Ines Kaun. They performed the work in both the Staatstheater of Darmstadt and Wiesbaden.


Choreography / Concept / Direction: Imre van Opstal & Marne van Opstal

Music: Howard Skempton, Arvo Part, Eric Whitacre, Lorelei Ensemble, Johann Johannsson, Ola Gjeilo

Choir Direction: Ines Kaun

Set Design: Tom Visser, Imre van Opstal & Marne van Opstal

Costume Design: Imre van Opstal & Marne van Opstal

Light Design: Tom Visser

Performers: Sayaka Kado, Rita Winder, Ramon John, Masayoshi Katori, Daniel Myers, Francesc Nello Deakin

Duration: 35 minutes

Premiere: Hessisches Staatsballett, 2022

More about the Hessisches Staatballett…


Imre and Marne van Opstal’s dance piece “I’m afraid to forget your smile” for two dancers, four dancers and the opera choir under the direction of Ines Kaun (four soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices each) is completely different, but equally ingenious. This piece also tells of an extreme situation, only metaphysical-ethereal instead of physical-physical. Like “Skid” it stands out dance-choreographically.