This Dance department curated exhibition honors Nancy Stark Smith’s (OC ’74) life and work. On view from May 5 - July 11, 2022, the exhibit is an important strand in the larger tapestry of Critical Mass: CI @ 50, a 5-day event (July 7-11, 2022) that celebrates 50 years of Contact Improvisation Dance and is a festival and conference with workshops, jams, and performances. The viewer is invited to look, listen, read, relax, roll, and dance with the kinesthetic principles mobilized throughout this exhibit.
From the moment that she first encountered the “small dance” in Steve Paxton’s 1972 winter term “soft class” held every morning at dawn until she died in May 2020, Nancy Stark Smith (OC ’74) was deeply engaged in the development of Contact Improvisation. As an Oberlin College student in the early seventies and then as a teacher, performer, organizer, and co-editor of Contact Quarterly (“a vehicle for moving ideas”), Stark Smith’s dancing and writing articulated the key principles of the form: tactile connections with other moving bodies, falling into gravity, playing with weight and momentum, and taking flight.