Judith Smith
Space Grant (2005/2006)

Judith Smith, Founding Member and Director Emerita of AXIS Dance Company, is one of the world’s driving forces in physically integrated dance. She was born and raised in the mountains of Colorado. Prior to becoming disabled in a car accident at age 17 in 1977, Judith was a champion equestrian. She transferred her passion for riding to dance after discovering contact improvisation in 1983. Judith helped launch AXIS in 1987 and she grew the Company to be the one of the world’s leading physically integrated dance ensembles. She has been instrumental in developing the field of integrated dance and bringing disability.

Under Judith’s direction from 1997-2017, AXIS commissioned more than 35 works from high profile artists including Bill T Jones, Stephen Petronio, Victoria Marks, Ann Carlson, Joe Goode, Remy Charlip, Kate Weare, Marc Brew and Yvonne Rainier; toured to over 100 cities; and appeared twice on FOX TV’S So You Think You Can Dance. She led the development of the field’s most extensive integrated dance education/outreach programs and launched cornerstone programs including in-school assemblies, Dance Access Day in-theater performances, Summer Intensive and an apprenticeship for disabled dancers.

Her advocacy and equity work led to the first-ever National Convening on the Future of Physically Integrated Dance in the USA in 2016, followed by six regional townhalls throughout the country. This project culminated in an extensive report, which is linked here, and the launch of the AXIS Artistic Advancement Platform to Advance Artistry, Opportunity and Equity for Dancers with Disabilities. She has been instrumental in the creation of the Dance/USA Deaf and Dance Affinity Group.

Judith has received many awards including an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Sustained Achievement and the O2 Initiatives Sabbatical Award. She has been one of Theatre Bay Area’s 40 People That Have Changed the Face of Bay Area Theatre and was inducted into the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame. She is extremely honored and humbled to have received Dance/USA’s Honors Award in 2022.

Since retiring from AXIS in early 2018, Judith has continued work in the field of dance and disability. She also raises butterflies, drives carriage horses, is an avid hiker and birdwatcher and transports injured wildlife and feral cats for several organizations. She received her CA Naturalist certification and helps with a Birding for All program at Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program. Her email is judithsmith313@gmail.com .