“A few years ago, Paulie was directing a production conceived and choreographed entirely by him from the ground up. Early on in the creation process Paul let me know there was an extra piece he wanted to add using eight specific guest artists. I told him, ‘That’s great Paulie, but we didn’t budget any cash for this show to hire extra dancers… it was meant to be set on our main company.’ Paul nonchalantly replied ‘Oh, that’s okay. I just took the money you’re paying me, divided it by eight, offered them each that amount to do the work, and they’re all good with it.’ Paul didn’t even take a cut, partially because he wanted to get his friends work, and partially because he had a vision he had to follow.
“His drive and selfless focus toward dance were absolutely impossible. We’ll all have to work just a little bit harder and be just a little bit more motivated to substitute the immeasurable amount of drive we’ve all collectively lost in him.”
Mark Hackman (Producing Director, Chicago Dance Crash)
While dancing for Thodos Dance Chicago at the turn of the 21st century, Paul Christiano choreographed his first dance: Miracle, Interrupted. Set to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the piece incorporated American Sign Language and an athletic movement vocabulary that would become Christiano’s signature. Miracle, Interrupted propelled Christiano’s career and he quickly entered the limelight as a recipient of the Ruth Page Award and nods from the media as one of sixteen “Chicagoans of the Year” (Chicago Tribune, 2003), “Best Dancer in Chicago” (Chicago Magazine, 2003), and one of the “Dancing Men of 2010” (TimeOut Chicago). Christiano’s resume includes collaborations with Nomi Dance Company, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Danszloop Chicago, Dmitri Peskov Dance Theatre, and Chicago Dance Crash. His work has been featured in the repertories of Thodos Dance Chicago, The Joffrey Ballet, and River North Dance Chicago.
“Paul was one of a ‘genius’ kind. He paved the way for so many artists to dig deeper, explore the unknown, trust their instincts, strive for bigger and so much better, and most of all to be extraordinary. When Paul was hard at work in the studio he drew the attention of everyone, inside and out. And when he took to the stage, he left us speechless and in awe. I know Paul had so much more to do, so many brilliant moments to have, so many more lives to influence.”
Laura Kariotis (Artistic Director, Nomi Dance Company)
As a performer, Paul Christiano was bold and charismatic. As a choreographer, his work was poignant and thoughtful – he answered questions the audience didn’t know how to ask and probed for understanding of himself and the world through movement. His talent was undeniable, his work infused with athleticism and a relentless commitment to seeing the idea all the way through.
“[Paul] was immensely creative in his work and he brought an authentic and unpretentious energy with him whether he was dancing, creating or otherwise. I always felt drawn to him and enjoyed being around him, a man of a tormented and somewhat sad past. A man who fell victim to his demons and in the end, lost his life to them. He was soft in character and had a kindness in him that was both endearing and loving…. It was that kindness that made me adore him. Paul will be missed in the Chicago dance community more than he could have possibly known. He was loved and respected more than he could have possibly known. His intricate and brilliant work will live on as will the mark he has left here both professionally and personally. I wish for him the peace that was missing in his lifetime here on earth.”
Lizzie MacKenzie Pontarelli (Founder/Artistic Director, Extensions Dance Company)
As the news of Christiano’s death at age 39 slowly spread across social media, the when, where, and how remained unimportant, because it really doesn’t matter. Throughout his life, Christiano’s greatest battle was with himself. It’s a battle he didn’t hide, and ultimately lost, but the legacy of his career, and the one he might have had, cannot and will not be forgotten.
Paul Christiano was, indeed, a miracle, interrupted.
“Paul Christiano was a brilliant artist. And, like the streotype goes, had his probelms. Paul was an artist who had demons, not a demon who made art. Whatever Paul’s faults, at the end of the day if you were to put on the scale all of the good and beautiful things he brought into this world on one side and all of the bad and ugly things he brought into this world I would say that the good would outweigh the bad. More so than if the same were done for me. Paul Christiano was (is) my friend. He carried a terrible weight and, in the end, it proved too heavy for him. I will miss him dearly.”
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Joshua Paul Weckesser (Co-Founder, Bread & Roses Productions)
Note: There is no public memorial planned for Paul Christiano. He will be remembered by his friends and colleagues in a future tribute performance presented in association with Dance Chicago this November.