Missy Pfohl Smith: Dance Artist
What Moves You?
“The wonder of nature, the compassion of humans and animals for one another, connection and intimacy, kindness and selflessness, and the fearlessness of people who express themselves and allow vulnerability.”
Missy Pfohl Smith is a choreographer, performer and collaborative artist who directs the Program of Dance and Movement and the Institute for the Performing Arts at University of Rochester. She founded and serves as artistic director for the contemporary repertory company, BIODANCE, based in Rochester, NY. The “Gorgeous…astonishing…exceptional” BIODANCE plays to sold out houses regionally and internationally, and Rochester City News said of her most recent collaborative project Aria,“Every bit of the performance was an absolute masterpiece.”She enjoys creating site specific work and her socially conscious choreography, performance and teaching has spanned across the US and internationally in 9 countries, most recently in Greece, Germany, Finland and Scotland, where she sold out both of her two shows in Edinburgh Fringe with her violist partner Bridget Kinneary (ESM ’15). Since 2010, Missy has been volunteering to teach weekly limited mobility dance classes for elders at Community Place of Greater Rochester, where BIODANCE also offers gratis performances 2-3 times per year.
Missy grew up in Buffalo and received her BS in Dance from the College at Brockport. Before returning to Rochester in 2004, Missy was based in NYC for 12 years and performed and taught internationally. While there, she studied and worked as an apprentice for the Erick Hawkins Dance Company. At the same time, Smith became a founding company member and later the Assistant Rehearsal Director of Randy James Dance Works, with whom she toured nationally and internationally from 1993-2003. She also performed nationally with Paul Mosley from 1997-2004 and with various independent artists including Philippa Kaye and Kriota Wilberg. In 2002, she received her MFA in Choreography and Performance from Sarah Lawrence College and founded BIODANCE.
Missy currently keeps an active choreographic, performative and collaborative practice creating new work for BIODANCE as well as performing with choreographers including Bill Evans, Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp, Anne Burnidge, Sarah McCormick, Courtney World and Cadence Whittier. A repertory company, BIODANCE has licensed and performed works by artists such as Heidi Latsky, D. Chase Angier, Randy James, Katherine Kramer, Jeanne Schickler Compisi and Ivy Baldwin. Over the past decade, she has built an ongoing collaborative relationship with digital media artist W. Michelle Harris (Rochester Institute for Technology) with whom she has created several evening length shows at the Rochester Museum and Science Center’s Strasenburgh Planetarium and at the Lyric Theatre. They have also created other surprising and unusual site-specific works. As an educator, Missy specializes in contemporary modern dance, dance and social justice, somatics, composition and performance studies, and has earned her certification in Bill Evans Somatically-based Pedagogy. She serves at Posse Mentor at University of Rochester for 10 amazing scholars from Washington, DC who have earned merit-based leadership scholarships. She has also been active in filmmaking, both in collaborations with her own choreography as well as performances in documentaries and experimental films.
Missy serves on the Board for the Keybank Rochester Fringe Festival, a Festival for which she has also created critically acclaimed shows since its inception, including a collaboration with headliner Grounded Aerial in which BIODANCE danced on the outdoor sculpture Tribute to Man for an estimated audience of 13,000. She has received Individual Artist and Company grants for her choreography and for BIODANCE events and educational dance residencies from the New York State Council on the Arts and the NY State Legislature, administered by Livingston Arts and the Arts and Cultural Council of Greater Rochester, Rochester Area Community Foundation, The Max and Marian Farash Foundation, Gouvernet Arts Fund, Westchester Arts Council, the HWS Center for Teaching and Learning, United University Professions, Career Transitions for Dancers and more.
Photo Credits (top to bottom): Paul H Taylor, Kevin Colton with imagery by W. Michelle Harris, “Aria” Photo by Nicolas Samper and imagery by W. Michelle Harris, Bruno Chalifour, Missy P. Smith with imagery by W. Michelle Harris