Klaus Nomi, the forgotten avant-garde star

Who is Klaus Nomi and why make a dance theatre production about him? Klaus Nomi was an amazing figure from the new wave music scene of the late 1970s and early 80s.

His monochrome, almost clown-like appearance, coupled with an astonishing operatic falsetto voice, marked him out as an iconic outsider as far removed from today’s bland X Factor massed produced clones as it is possible to get.

He was originally Klaus Berber from West Germany, but left his homeland, as many thousands have done before him, to seek his fame and fortune in America and New York City. Nomi had a unique and different singing style, and an ability to be seen once and remembered long after. He quickly rose to fame in the avant garde club scene of New York mixing rock, opera and a sense of theatre in his performance.

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He was spotted by David Bowie, who was always on the lookout for “the next big thing”. Then, just as his star was shining brightest, he was tragically cut down by the then new and much misunderstood Aids. Klaus went from the hottest ticket in town to a lonely and sad death in a New York hospital.

Grant Smeaton and I were attracted to Nomi’s story as we saw it as the perfect opportunity to combine the abstraction of dance with the narrative storytelling of theatre. By combining these two art forms we were being true to the essence of Klaus and his experimentation of mixing his operatic falsetto voice with rock and new wave music.

Our show, Do You Nomi?, has been in research and development since 2010 and uses four male performers – actors who act and dance and dancers who dance and act. Friends and production team members who have been in to watch rehearsals have been incredibly moved by our funny and poignant homage to this almost forgotten icon. Many people who have watched our research process have gone on to YouTube and been amazed by Klaus’s visual, comical, theatrical and hugely entertaining voice and persona. If you are unfamiliar with his work, I urge you to check him out – you will not be disappointed.


• Do You Nomi? opens at the Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, on 8 February, then tours Scotland until 7 March. Full list of dates at www.alangreigdancetheatre.com/dates.