NOMI - a dance event by Peter Breuer  

NOMI - A dance-event by Peter Breuer
- by Peter Jobst
Published in ERATO No. 10: Spring 1998

or the choreographer Peter Breuer dance is a direct and emotional confrontation with individual and collective history. He has shown this both as a dancer and as a very successful artist with many choreographies for example of Chaplin in Halle (Germany). The evening with the ballet of the Salzburg Theatre (Austria) is a careful as well as sensitive approach to the phenomenon of Klaus Nomi, which Breuer calls a dance-event.

Klaus Sperber, who later assumed the name Klaus Nomi was one of the first victims of AIDS and died at the young age of 34 in a New York hospital.

"Dying young" was only a first step to immortality. The radical wanderer between worlds, tore down frontiers and broke traditions as well in his life as in his music. Categories such as man or woman, homo or hetero; were superfluous according to Nomi, who was not himself easily labelled. The dancer Eric Assandri experiences as from his deathbed fragments of Klaus Nomi's life. Assandri takes on the role of Nomi the man, while the Art and stage figure is danced by Muriel Estanco. Scenes show an apparently insignificant existence, marked by permanent lack of success, petty bourgeois stupidity, and hatred of the human body which are successfully spread  by his mother, followed by the fleeing to New York in the hope of being able to make his musical dreams come true. Klaus takes on odd jobs in the American metropole, including as a dish washer. Meetings with loud and queer drag-queens in the legendary time before Stonewall. His coming out as a gay man pinnacles in a moving pas-de-deux with his lover, Adrian (Alessandro Bizzi).

In his trips through the nightlife he got to know Lisa who later became his wife. The creation of the central art-figure of Nomi is the pivotal theme of the evening, the stage is for Nomi the place, cleft and contradiction which is to be legitimised. In heavy make-up, with hints of the future and baroque clothes - this is the picture with which Nomi impressed the world. Light years distant from the reality which time and again caught up with even Klaus Nomi. The key scene is the moment of making-up. This intimate moment offers him the possibility of strengthening his appearance. Legends and key figures of Nomi's imaginary world populate the stage: Maria Callas as Tosca, Elvis Presley, Marlene Dietrich, David Bowie, Andy Warhol; their appearances give the stage-show a high entertainment value - entertainment in the best sense of the word.

The music of Nomi challenges the dance, so that one asks oneself why Nomi has been so widely disregarded by the dance-theatre. Pop and classic; baroque and science fiction come together in an wonderful symbiosis. In baroque-times composers as well as artists like Farinelli achieved a popularity comparable to super-stars of the present. Klaus Nomi had unsuccessfully auditioned at opera houses. A shaking of heads, a slight smile, absolute rejection, were some reactions of the opera-house directors. His appearances, viewed from today, hat decisively changed the music-scene, long before James Bowman; Derek Lee Ragin, Jochen Kowalski, René Jacobs, or Jimmy Somerville.

He strived towards the "total show" and thus opened the way for artist like David Bowie or Michael Jackson. His dream of singing and acting in a grand opera remained unfulfilled. Unusual performances of arias from King Arthur, Samson and Delilah etc enthused a new public for this genre. He played a decisive role -parallel to the contributions of Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne, or Emma Kirby – in the renaissance of baroque music. As his dream career seem to border on becoming reality, AIDS caught up with him and he died at the age of 34. Today Klaus Nomi has become a myth. He is a meteor which briefly enlightened the heavens only to burn itself out. Although his stage performances were spectacular, the person Nomi remained unpretentious. What remains are five CDs of an incomparable voice and music videos which made history because they were ahead of their time. Klaus Nomi revolutionised the music scene. That is the message of this fantastic dance-evening, which also offers a total-show – just what Klaus Nomi wished it.

Peter Jobst

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