SMITH--Nancy Stark, age 68, a writer, editor, and dancer who co-founded the contemporary dance form called Contact Improvisation, died of ovarian cancer at home in Florence, MA, on Friday, May 1, 2020. Stark Smith was born in 1952 in Brooklyn, New York, the second daughter of Lucille Stark and Dr. Joseph J. Smith, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. She was just five years old when her mother died. She grew up petite, a free spirit, an athlete and a gymnast with a signature long swinging braid of hair. In 1975, Stark Smith co-founded the movement's international dance journal, Contact Quarterly, which she has co-edited for 45 years with choreogapher Lisa Nelson. Up through this year, she performed and taught on five continents. In 1990, she developed the Underscore, a long- form dance improvisation structure. Each year since 2000 there has been a "Global Underscore" practiced simultaneously in as many as 70 cities all over the world. She is survived by her partner of 22 years, Mike Vargas, an improvisational composer and musician and a lecturer at Smith College, and his daughter Gray (Michael Sedlmayer) and granddaughter Zoe; her sister Susan Smith Berenzweig; brother David Chaim Smith (Rachel); stepmother Carol Smith; stepsiblings Laura Haleman (Edward) and James Rand (Susan); her nephew Adam Berenzweig (Anya Kamenetz), niece Julie Kligerman (Scott), and grandnieces, Luria Berenzweig, Hannah Jo Kligerman, and Elvera Berenzweig. "Where you are when you don't know where you are is one of the most precious spots offered by improvisation. It is a place from which more directions are possible than anywhere else. I call this place The Gap," Stark Smith wrote in a Contact Quarterly editor's note in 1987. There will be a memorial announced in the future. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Contact Quarterly www.contactquarterly.com/ donate.
To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in New York Times on May 4, 2020.