Founded in 2001 by Artistic Director Allison Orr, Austin-based Forklift Danceworks creates dances with all kinds of people. Using the movement that people perform in their everyday lives as choreographic material, Forklift Danceworks creates dances with professional dancers and people entirely new to dance. Past company productions have included Venetian gondoliers, City of Austin sanitation employees, Elvis impersonators, people who are visually impaired, and City of Austin firefighters.
Seeking to expand audience’s notions of dancer and performer through its community-based work, Forklift presents dances both in and outside of the theater. By grounding its pieces in a variety of communities, the company engages people who do not commonly attend contemporary dance, thereby expanding the audience for the performing arts. Forklift collects audience surveys at all of its performances, and previous surveys have shown audiences to be 5-15% non-local residents and 25-35% first-time attendees to contemporary dance.
Major works include: The Trash Project (2009/11)-a dance for 24 employees and 16 sanitation vehicles from Austin's Solid Waste Services Department; The Traffic Maven (2010)-a solo for an Austin Police Officer; SKATE! A Night at the Rink (2008/09)-a community-led performance featuring over 30 roller skaters; The King & I (2007/05)- an evening-length work exploring our cultural obsession with Elvis Presley; Oh Mother (2006)- a collection of dances by women in various states of motherhood; Sextet (2003/04)-a dance for two trained dancers and two visually impaired men and their guide dogs; The Gondola Project (2003/04)-a dance for eight gondoliers performed on a canal in Venice, Italy; and In Case of Fire (2001)-a dance for 13 City of Austin firefighters. Forkliftâ€™s newest project, Solo Symphony, will be a dance performed by Austin Symphony Conductor Peter Bay, and will premier in July 2012 at the Long Center.
Forklift’s innovative artistic programs have garnered local and national attention. Orr’s choreography has been consistently recognized by The Austin Critics Table, and the company’s work has been listed three times inThe Austin Chronicle as one of the year’s Top Ten Dance and Theater events.The Trash Project, the company's large scale-production with the City of Austin Solid Waste Services Department, was named the #1 Arts Event of 2009 by The Austin American Statesman and the #1 Dance Event of 2009 by The Austin Chronicle. Forklift has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Dance Magazine, Texas Monthly, on the cover of The Austin Chronicle and The Austin American Statesman, all of the major Austin media outlets including KXAN/NBC and KUT/ NPR, BBC radio, and the National Geographic Channel.
As part of its goal to foster creativity and serve a diverse audience, Forklift directs two educational programs-Leaps and Bounds and Body Shift. Leaps and Bounds provides free, high quality, developmentally appropriate creative movement classes to children from low-income families at two partner schools-Mainspring School and Allison Elementary School- and has served more than 2,000 children and parents since its inception in 2001. Body Shift, a partnership in mixed-ability dance with VSA Texas, seeks to expand access to dance for all people through monthly Saturday classes and weekend intensives accessible to people with and without disabilities, the only program of this kind in Central Texas.
By creating dances that engage a diverse audience--both as audience and performer--Forklift Danceworks broadens access to contemporary dance while building community and fostering the creative spirit.