I first met Amanda Smith in 1973, when she was the bright, eager young dance critic for the Boston Phoenix. She’d been one of a small group of writers chosen to participate in the West Coast Institute for Dance Criticism, headed by Lydia Joel that summer and held at Mills College. Passionate talk about dance and writing were meat and drink to Amanda, and the love of both never left her. In the days before the severe pneumonia that hospitalized her in early March caused her heart to stop unexpectedly, she was regretting that someone else would have to attend Jonah Bokaer’s The Invention of Minus One with her students.
Those students were involved in New York Term of Coe College in Cedar Rapids, a program she had co-directed since 1980. Her enthusiasm about the dance events she squired NYT kids to over the years doubtless had an impact on them as powerful as her insights. With an M.A. in English from Penn State, in addition to one in dance from the University of Michigan, she also taught English to Hofstra University students and, in the 1980s, interviewed a number of authors—among them Toni Morrison and Salman Rushdie—for articles she contributed to Publishers Weekly.
Writing about dance, however, was a craving with her. Her reviews and articles appeared in Dance Magazine (from 1975 on), the Voice, the Soho Weekly News, the Drama Review, and other publications. She, her husband David Koblitz, and their son, Nicholas Smith-Koblitz, would sometimes drive from New York to Jacob’s Pillow to see a performance that she could cover for Dance only as an item in an overview of the Pillow’s summer season.
She loved dancers and choreographers offstage as well—talking with them and talking about them to others (she once served on the New York State Council for the Arts’ Dance Panel). She was, as dancer Will Rawls said, a vocal advocate for those she believed in, as well as a good friend. To her, dance was a rich country, and she was profoundly happy to be the active, creative citizen of it that she was.
At a family burial ceremony in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a cousin remembered that Amanda, as a child, had won a marbles championship in South Jersey. The determination, the keen eye, the steady hand—it figures.
For the many people who mourn her absence in their lives, a memorial will be held in May, date to be announced.