Forklift Danceworks celebrates the extraordinary in the ordinary by creating original performances inspired by the movement of everyday life. By engaging a diverse body of participants and audience through its performances, outreach programs, classes, and workshops, the company empowers all people to be actively engaged in the creative process.
Founded in 2001 by Allison Orr, Austin-based Forklift Danceworks produces award-winning dances with all kinds of people. Using the movement that people perform in their everyday lives as choreographic material, Forklift creates dances with professional dancers and people entirely new to dance.
Seeking to expand audiences’ 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 building new audiences 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; 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.
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 in The Austin Chronicle as one of the year’s Top Ten Dance and Theater events. The Trash Project was named #1 Arts Event of 2009 by The Austin American Statesman and #1 Dance Event of 2009 by The Austin Chronicle. The company has been featured in The Washington Post, Texas Monthly, on the cover of The Austin Chronicle, The Austin American Statesman (front page and cover of entertainment weekly, XL), KLRU, KUT/NPR radio, BBC radio, and the National Geographic Channel.
Leaps and Bounds—creative movement classes for underserved children
Founded in 2011, 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. A critical component of the arts programming at both schools, Leaps and Bounds has demonstrated success. 2010/11 program evaluations show that 100% of the participating children improved in cognitive and gross motor skills, body and spatial awareness, and self-confidence during the year program. 96% percent of participating children demonstrated an increased ability for creative expression as well as a greater sense of themselves as creator. Over 1,500 children and their families have been served by Leaps and Bounds so far.
Body Shift—mixed-ability dance classes for ALL!
In an effort to expand access to dance for all people, Forklift has been collaborating with VSA Texas since 2003 to provide mixed-ability* dance classes for people with and without disabilities. Entitled Body Shift, this collaboration includes Saturday monthly classes and a yearly weekend intensive. Led by Austin teachers with extensive experience in mixed-ability work, Body Shift aims to broaden access to the arts for people with disabilities, expand the movement range and personal approaches to movement for the participants, and provide an opportunity for dancers with disabilities and able-bodied dancers to dance together. The only program of this kind in Central Texas, Body Shift also seeks to decrease the prejudice and misconceptions about disability in the field of dance and in society at-large. In 2011, over 75 adults with and without disabilities have been served by Body Shift.
*Mixed-ability dance classes are open to adults with a variety of dance experiences and bodies. People with disabilities, beginning dancers, seasoned professionals, older dancers, and people returning to dance are all welcome at these classes.