In 1972, an Oberlin student named Nancy saw possibility in Steve Paxton’s work Magnesium. She too wanted to explore the dynamics between the subtlety of movement and the velocity of movement. This curiosity led her into her life’s work as a contact improvisor.
Today, the name Nancy Stark Smith is a household name (in the house of dance, that is). Over lunch, the Festival community had the opportunity to converse with Nancy about her dance life. The setting was casual, but Nancy spoke with measured clarity. She talked about movement experiments with Steve Paxton, the early performances at John Weber Art Gallery, and the inaugural jams.
As I listened to Nancy speak, I became aware of the power of possibility. Nancy explained that complex lifts and easeful weight transfers do not mark a Contact virtuoso. Instead, masterful contact improvisation occurs when partners listen with their bodies and remain present with their minds. Most importantly, it is about recognizing possibility and embracing it. The masterful contact improvisor is never stops encountering the new.