Missy Pfohl Smith


Photo by Kevin Colton

Missy Pfohl Smith is a choreographer, performer and collaborative artist who founded and serves as artistic director for BIODANCE, based in Rochester, NY. Smith also directs the Program of Dance and Movement and the Institute for the Performing Arts at University of Rochester. 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, Smith 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.

Smith grew up in Buffalo and received her BS in Dance from the College at Brockport. Before returning to Rochester in 2004, she 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.

Smith currently keeps an active choreographic, performative and collaborative practice creating new work for BIODANCE as well as performing as an individual artist. 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, Smith 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 has also been active in filmmaking, both in collaborations with her own choreography as well as performances in documentaries and experimental films.

Smith 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.