By Wendy Perron
5 May 2020
Co-creator of Contact Improvisation, improviser extraordinaire, and founder and co-editor of Contact Quarterly, Nancy Stark Smith passed away on May 1. A force as a dancer and an educator, she created a network of love for improvisation on a global scale. She died in her home in Florence, MA, of ovarian cancer. Messages from all over the world registered shock, sadness and poetic memories on social media.
She cracked open gender codes in dance with one casual comment. After watching Steve Paxton’s Magnesium (1972), a dance of hurling and falling for men, she told Paxton, “If you ever work like this with women, I’d love to know about it.”
She was a buoyant yet grounded improviser. Whether springing up out of the floor or boomeranging off another person, she made the pleasure of touch visible. She had a wondrous way of talking/writing about the sensations of momentum that drew people in.
On Facebook, her friend and early CI dancer, Christie Svane, wrote, “Our beloved Nancy Stark Smith left her wild and gentle dancing, unique, glorious, fearless body on Earth and made for home. Her collaborator and companion, Mike Vargas, pianist, composer and sound artist, was by her side at home in Florence, Mass. with her beloved flower garden beginning to bloom.
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