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The Love Portfolio: Ivo van Hove & Jan Versweyveld

Gabriela Herman

Photography by Gabriela Herman. Ivo van Hove (left) and Jan Versweyveld

Ivo van Hove, Theater Director

We’ve been together for 36 years, since 1980, when we were about 20. Antwerp was a very vibrant city, where punk was very much alive. Jan was in art school, and after I met him it was clear that to live together we also had to be creative together. Rehearsals can be very intense. He wants me to make the best of the best, and I want the same for him, so he challenges me, and I challenge him. 

I cannot imagine a life without him. When I think about it, it scares me. I think we fit together very well. We are friends, too. Love is friendship and caring for each other and tenderness and sexuality, and pleasure and joy on different levels. I think we work very well together on all these levels. I love his opinions, although I hate them sometimes. It’s a misunderstanding that people need to agree all the time. In English, you say, “Married in good times and in bad times.” That’s what a relationship is about, eh? You have to deal with the good and bad times—not ignore them, but embrace them.

Jan Versweyveld, Set Designer

We didn’t have money at the time, and didn’t care. It was pre-AIDS and a lot of experimenting was going on. It wasn't very important if you were gay or not, and there was a lot of freedom and fluidity. We met in March, during Easter vacation, at a modern dance workshop. By the end of April or May, we were so exhausted from each other’s energy and wildness. We had a conversation—after quarrel number 10 that day—about how this was not maintainable for us. When we collaborated on that first performance, it was a way to get rid of that exuberant creativity we had together—and we were happy. I know that my relationship with Ivo is the source of everything I do. It shapes my life. Before I had surgery in 2004, I felt worried, so I called and said, “If I come out, we have to marry.” And he was quiet, then said, “Yes, I think.” After the surgery, I was fine. A few months later in Amsterdam, I said, “Come on, jump on your bike. We’re going to City Hall.” We didn’t make a big thing about it. It was the shortest marriage possible, during a break in rehearsal. 

Watch out for Hove and Versweyveld's next show on Broadway, The Crucible, starring Ben Whishaw.

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