Nomi: the little company that could

In the days following the death of Paul Christiano, many of the photos and sentiments circulated on social media were from Laura Kariotis. As Artistic Director of Nomi Dance, Kariotis worked closely with Christiano for seven years, and the concept for Nomi’s one-night-only fall engagement at the Athenaeum Theatre on Oct. 24 was originally his idea.

Courtesy of Nomi Dance
Courtesy of Nomi Dance

Though still mourning the loss of a leading company member and a friend, Nomi went ahead with Instrumental, an evening embodying recordings of popular music spanning from Bach to Gershwin to Stevie Ray Vaughan. The concert grew linearly in intensity and enthusiasm throughout the evening; though the classical selections provided fodder for more literal interpretations of instruments and melodies, it was fairly apparent that the group of dancers much preferred a rock and roll soundtrack. It wasn’t until the very end of the night that I became convinced that each dancer really believed in what she (and one he) was doing.

Perhaps more important than an analysis of what unfolded onstage, I think its important to commend the courage and grit Laura Kariotis and her company displayed in attempting to realize Paul’s idea. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t, but that’s not quite the point. It can be a bit difficult to differentiate Nomi from the gaggle of companies sharing its size, stature, and aesthetic. What made this company special was Paul, and it remains to be seen if or how Nomi can emerge from the pack. If Instrumental‘s finale is any indication of this company’s desire, however, Nomi should have no trouble holding onto its piece of the dance pie.

Author: Lauren Warnecke

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance dance critic, contributing to the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Magazine. She is senior editor of See Chicago Dance. Lauren covers dance across the Midwest and writes regularly for Dance Magazine and Pointe with additional bylines in Milwaukee Magazine, St. Louis Magazine and Dance Teacher. Forthcoming publications include essays on ballet training in Chicago (University of Illinois Press) and Shirley Mordine (University of Akron Press). In 2020, Lauren published an opinion piece on the impact of COVID-19 on the arts in the South African journal Agenda. Lauren holds degrees in dance and kinesiology and has presented research on dance training practices at the National Dance Education Organization and the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. She has co-facilitated critical dance writing intensives in Chicago and Durban, South Africa, and participated in writing residencies at the National Center for Choreography, Bates Dance Festival and JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience. Lauren teaches dance history and kinesiology for dancers, with part-time appointments at Loyola University Chicago and Illinois Wesleyan University.