It’s been only two weeks since the news broke of Nancy Stark Smith’s death; it seems so much longer, somehow. Which is perhaps an effect of coronavirus time.
And yet, isn’t she still alive? Aren’t we going to see her again when this is all over?
I don’t yet have the words. I feel entitled to only some grief and drama about her passing; I knew Nancy, but not so personally. My relative silence so far isn’t so much from intensity of emotions, but confusion about my feelings and what to say, and hesitation to step into a conversation that others are filling so well. Maybe I don’t need to say anything yet, or ever. Maybe I’ll wait a while, until more beautiful, thoughtful, critical tributes have said everything that needs to be said, and I’ll add my little piece then.
Until then, I wanted to share some of the wonderful pieces I’ve been reading and seeing:
- Contact Quarterly has published a set of short tributes / remembrances from Lisa Nelson, Steve Paxton, Christina Svane, and Danny Lepkoff. Somehow, Steve Paxton’s was the one that made me tear up the most, expressing a Steve Paxton-y sort of zen-like understated grief. It starts, “Nancy Stark Smith; you have gone. I didn’t think it would end like this. But this isn’t about you. It’s about me. I’m all I have left of you.”
- The Nancy Stark Smith Harvest page on Facebook, started by Contact Quarterly, keeps steadily gathering tributes. After an initial flood of writings largely by those who came after her, some of Nancy’s contemporaries are now writing more reflective, historical accounts of their life with her.
- Christina Svane‘s story of first meeting Nancy Stark Smith deserves a re-publishing in Contact Quarterly or elsewhere—it’s a beautiful, fun, touching story of two young women meeting each other 50 years ago, and it’s among the loveliest things I’ve read in the last few weeks. It seems particularly inspired, details crystalline in their rendering.
- Tom Hast wrote a little something about Nancy, the John Weber gallery performances, and the founding of Naropa.
- There have also been some lovely drawings:
- I’m a sucker for the old photographs of Nancy, I think because they give me an insight into her before I knew her, before she was quite so iconic. Maybe also because I can put them together with the story of how her life turned out and imagine the potential in people and situations I see today. The first 12 or so photos in Caught Falling are wonderful to me. And I enjoyed seeing this photo that Nita Little posted of dancing with Nancy in 1975 or 1976.
- Ronja Ver pointed out that the “Calling In Ancestors” glyph that Ronja, Jun Akiyama, and Andrew Suseno added to the Underscore for the 2019 West Coast Contact Improvisation Jam, meant to resemble a DNA strand, looks rather like Nancy’s braid.1
- In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that in response to Ronja’s post on their Facebook page, some people had some critical responses to Nancy’s slowness in changing the Pow-wow glyph to Assembly. I didn’t lead this, but I participated in it, and I honor the courage of those who raised the issue.