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Stardust founder Henk van der Meijden started his long and successful career in live entertainment in the 60s. His vision and talent have made Stardust the international succes story it has been for over half a century and still is today. Discover the story of Henk and Stardust below.

Jaren '60

the sixties

After seeing then 17 year old Emmy reach the final of the Tshaikovsy Festival, the most prestigious classical festival in the world (with, among others, judge David Oistrakh), van der Meijden celebrated this in Concertgebouw Amsterdam with, of course, Emmy Verhey herself, Christiaan Bor and Verhey’s tutor Herman Krebbers. This production meant the start of a tour called Avond der Violen (Evening of Violins) and, more importantly, the start of Henk van der Heijden as a theater producer.


In 1967 van der Meijden followed up with the Wereldballetfestival (World Ballet Festival) in Koninklijk Theater Carré Amsterdam. The stars of this production? The New York Harlem Dance Theater, led by Arthur Mitchell, and the New York Harlem Ballet.


Next, van der Meijden invited The London Royal Ballet, with star soloists Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. They brought many programs, Giselle among others, to Carré. Van der Meijden also served as the liaison between Nureyev and Rudi van Dantzig, a brilliant move as it turned out. Nureyev had told van der Meijden he wanted a new challenge -something modern!-, after performing countless ‘Swan Lakes’ and ‘Giselles’. Van der Meijden proposed Monument voor een Gestorven Jongen (Monument for a Dead Boy), an idea Nureyev was very enthusiastic about. Van der Meijden and van Dantzig started planning immediately.

Van der Meijden, by now Nureyevs impresario, premiered Monument voor een Gestorven Jongen in the Amsterdam RAI Theater. Afterwards, the production went on tour in Belgium and Germany. In addition, the foundations had been laid for a unique collaboration between Nureyev and The National Ballet. Productions with all-time greats like Margot Fonteyn followed soon.


Apart from ballet, van der Meijden created equally artistic collaborations with Ramses Shaffy and Liesbeth List in the sixties. He brought the musically gifted duo to the theater for the first time in 1968. Shaffy and List starred for many weeks in the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, accompanied by Louis van Dijk, Rogier van Otterloo and John Engels. They continued their success afterwards with a national tour.


The Abend in Wien (Evening in Vienna) concerts were another great success from the 60s. The Concertgebouw Amsterdam and many other theaters welcomed these productions, with legends like Robert Stolz, Margit Schramm and Rudolph Schock.

the seventies

In 1971 van der Meijden and Wout van Liempt (impresario of, among others, Wim Kan) opened Ahoy Rotterdam by inviting the Russian State Circus, starring the legendary Clown Oleg Popov. The incredible succes of the performance, with sold-out audiences of about 10 000, led to a prolific residency of the Russian State Circus in Carré Amsterdam. For Carré it was the first circus program in 12 years, resulting in, once again, a huge success.


The Russian State Circus returned with a new program and a new clown in 1979. That new clown? The legendary Nikolajev. After once again selling out a residency in Carré Amsterdam, a Dutch national tour ensued.

Van der Meijden’s love for the classic ballet led to performances bij the Mariinsky Ballet (formerly known as the Kirov Ballet) with then 19 year old Mikhail Baryschnikov in a leading role.


More and more companies were engaged by van der Meijden: the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera) and the Russian State Symphony Orchestra (with famous conductor Svetlanov) to name just a few (Concertgebouw Amsterdam and national tour).


With the incredibly talented Prima Ballerina Galena Ulanova in a leading role, van der Meijden presented a Pas de Deux Festival with the biggest stars of the Russian ballet.

Jaren '70
Jaren '80 - Cotton club

the eighties

After achieving success with many international productions, van der Meijden focused on concerts by the biggest names in the music industry: Vera Lynn, Yves Montand, Charles Trenet, Tony Bennett, Nana Mouskouri, James Last, Ennio Morricone, Lionel Hampton and many more.


The year 1984 saw the debut of the popular and famous Wereldkerstcircus (World Christmas Circus) in Carré Amsterdam. Produced by van der Meijden and Wout Van Liempt, this circus celebrated its 35th birthday in 2019.


In 1987 van der Meijden started a prolific and long-lasting collaboration with the Great Chinese State Circus. Stardust revolutionized the entire concept by showcasing it in a tent. Until then only theaters were used. The following decades saw tours in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Denmark and France (with, to name just one, a residency of 3 months in the Cirque D’Hiver in Paris).

Also in 1987, Stardust debuted the yearly concert residencies of Tom Parker & The New London Chorale. This immensely successful tradition would continue until 2004.


Stardust produced its first homemade international musical in 1989: A Night at the Cotton Club. The musical starred Madeline Bell and Ruth Jacott and was directed by the American Billy Wilson. A few years later, in 1991, Stardust became the first Dutch musical production company to have a show in the London West End. A Night at the Cotton Club was booked in the Aldwych Theater for almost 6 months, which was an absolute record back then.


Monica Strotmann, van der Meijden’s wife, joined Stardust in 1987, becoming his professional partner, too, and taking charge of the company’s daily duties.

the nineties

After the excellent reviews and enormous success of A Night at the Cotton Club, Stardust started to focus on more homemade international musicals, like Josephine, a biographical musical about iconic dancer Josephine Baker.


This production, again directed by Billy Wilson, was widely acclaimed. Josephine toured The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Austria. The Sound of Motown, The Glory of Gospel and Mahalia (about Mahalia Jackson), all of them written by van der Meijden himself, quickly ensued.


Henk van der Meijden, Joop van den Ende en business mogul Benoit Wesley bought the Circustheater (Circus Theater) in Scheveningen, Den Haag, in 1992. After a thorough refurbishment, costing around 25 million Dutch guilder, the theater would reopen festively in 1993 with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. That show would run for over 3 years.

After the succes of the first Dutch musical version of Grease, Grease - De Musical, Stardust premiered Annie! in 1997. The huge success of the musical would later lead to a residency in the Victoria Palace Theater in London.


Big productions kept on coming, like The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (with a complete American cast), the Chinese Xian Ballet, La Cage aux Folles, Carmina Burana, West Side Story and so on.


In 1993 Stardust premiered the Weltweihnachtscircus (World Christmas Circus) in Stuttgart, Germany. Since its debut, this circus program has become the most successful in its kind in the whole of Europe.

Jaren '90 - Weltweihnachtscircus
Jaren '00 Wenen

the nillies

The year 2000 (and, thus, the new millennium) was opened spectacularly, with a long residency of the Mariinsky Ballet & Orchestra in the RAI Theater Amsterdam.


Next, Stardust focused on attracting the biggest international ballet companies in the world: in 2002 it invited the Bolshoi Ballet & Orchestra, with a combined total of 250 cast members, to Carré Amsterdam, along with The Ballet of Maurice Béjart, the maestro himself taking the spotlight during the performance’s finale. Stardust also invited the National Ballet of Cuba, with the legendary Alicia Alonso and Compana Antonio Gades.

The Greatest and Biggest Swan Lake in the World, an original Henk van der Meijden idea, was created in association with the Tchaikovsky Perm Ballet and toured through The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany between 2003 and 2011.


Throughout the whole of Europe (Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Copenhagen, Madrid, Barcelona) Stardust booked performances by the Great Chinese State Circus, like Confucius, Yang Yang, Asiana, ZENsation, Ovations, Hans Christian Andersen and Pirates Pirates.

the teens

Stardust successfully blended song, dance and variety in the sexy burlesque show Cirque Stiletto. Ellen ten Damme surprised the Dutch public with a stunning performance, showcasing her singing and acrobatic abilities, described by press and public with only the most praising superlatives.


The world’s fastest illusionist Hans Klok became one of the showpieces of Dutch entertainment by aligning himself with Stardust. Circus acts, huge set pieces and modern choreographies turned every show into a surprising and unique experience. Year after year, the biggest illusion show in the world was able to innovate technically and creatively, using creations never seen before.

In the ballet world Stardust innovated, too, as audiences demanded once in a lifetime experiences. The Greatest and Biggest Swan Lake in the World was revamped by Derek Deane, former Creative Director of the English National Ballet and choreographer of ENB’s Swan Lake in the Round (Royal Albert Hall).


This new version of The Greatest and Biggest Swan Lake in the World is executed by the Shanghai Ballet and sells out theaters worldwide to this day.

Jaren '10 Rembrandt
Jaren '20 Wereld Kerst Circus carre

the twenties

During the global corona pandemic, Stardust has always continued to innovate an develop and has entered into new international collaborations. The general public is showing more and more interest in immersive total experiences and Stardust has created a beautiful flagship with the rental of the beautiful Matadero in Madrid for the next ten years, where it presents innovative digital exhibitions together with its Spanish partners.


After a major renovation, lasting no less than two years, and an investment of millions, Madrid Artes Digitales opened in March 2022 with a production about the life and work of Gustav Klimt. This is followed by Tutankamon, which, after a flying start in Spain, will continue to conquer Europe and the rest of the world in 2023 and 2024. The last days of Pompeii has been announced as the next MAD production.


After two years of absence, the Christmas circuses returned...and how! Larger and more spectacular than ever before and with an occupancy rate of 99%, the 36th Werelkerstcircus Carré in Amsterdam and the 28th Weltweihnachtscircus Stuttgart went down in the books as the best-attended editions ever.


2023 is also the year of transition. Henk van der Meijden and Monica Strotmann will hand over the management of their company to the new Stardust generation, led by their daughter Elisa van der Meijden. The international headquarters will move to a new location and the Christmas circus tradition will also develop further with the expansion to new German cities in the coming years.

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