Nancy Stark Smith, photo Carolyn LeeNancy Stark Smith first trained as an athlete and gymnast, leading her to study and perform modern and postmodern dance in the early 1970s, greatly influenced by the dance/theater improvisation group the Grand Union and the Judson Dance Theater breakthroughs of the 1960s in NYC. She graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in dance and writing. In 1972, she danced in the first performances of Contact Improvisation in NYC and has since been central to its development as a dancer, teacher, performer, organizer, and writer/publisher, working extensively over the years with Steve Paxton and others.

She travels throughout the world teaching and performing contact and other improvised dance work at festivals, schools, and art centers, working with many favorite dance partners and performance makers including Ray Chung, Karen Nelson, Andrew Harwood, Julyen Hamilton, and musician Mike Vargas.

Nancy Stark Smith, photo Alfiya Rakhmanova

In 1975, she cofounded Contact Quarterly, a vehicle for moving ideas, an international dance and improvisation journal, which she continues to coedit and produce with Lisa Nelson, as well as codirecting Contact Editions which produces and distributes nonperiodical new dance literature. Her first book, Caught Falling: The Confluence of Contact Improvisation, Nancy Stark Smith, and Other Moving Ideas, with David Koteen, came out in 2008.  Her writings appear in the book, Taken By Surprise: A Dance Improvisation Readerpublished by Wesleyan University Press. Her work is examined in Melinda's Buckwalter's book, Composing While Dancing: An Improviser's Companion, and Kent DeSpain's, Landscape of the Now: A Topography of Movement Improvisation.

Articles and interviews in Contact Quarterly by Nancy Stark Smith are listed here.

The film, The Poetics of Touch, is a portrait of Nancy Stark Smith and Contact Improvisation, shot at Casina Settarte by Sara Pozzoli and Germana Siciliani. She is also interviewed about the Underscore in the video, An Emergent Underscore, produced by Marlon Barrios Solano.

Throughout all her activities, she continues to explore the bodymind states that are generated while dancing, the life cycle of form as it manifests in improvisation, and how any of this research can be communicated in performance and in print. She lives in western Massachusetts, in the northeast of the U.S.A.


Caught Falling

The Confluence of Contact Improvisation,
Nancy Stark Smith, and Other Moving Ideas

a book by David Koteen and Nancy Stark Smith
with a Backwords by Steve Paxton

Click here for details


hieroglyphs Nancy Stark Smith