Periodically, I have the pleasure of writing about the work of my friend, choreographer Allison Orr, and her company, Forklift Danceworks. (Most notably in The Trash Project.) For the purposes of this blog, she is highly . . . bloggable. Ms. Orr has built a career on seeing “ordinary” people and creating dance inspired and performed (!) by them–gondoliers, Japanese women professional baseball players, power company workers, urban foresters, dining service personnel, and, perhaps most famously, sanitation crews in Austin. She has said that it is her “job to help people see human beings more fully.”
In October, she was in Winston-Salem (my home town) at her alma mater, Wake Forest University. Culminating a two-and-a-half year collaboration, Forklift and Wake Forest presented From the Ground Up, a celebration of all the personnel of WFU’s Facilities and Campus Services departments. “Hundreds of people lined the Quad on bleachers or sat on blankets and tarps in the middle of the Quad to watch lawnmowers waltz, housekeepers twirl and heavy equipment dance.”
Ms. Orr’s work is always hard to describe and sometimes harder to “get your head around.” My brother-in-law attended with us. His pre-performance comment on my description was “that sounds strange enough to be interesting.” By the end he was blown away, searching out other examples of Forklift’s work, and telling everyone he saw how amazing the experience had been.
I would encourage you to click on the link From the Ground Up. This, and most of Forklift’s work, is unique in its celebration of the lives of people who are seldom thought of in artistic contexts. The power of lifting up people who are frequently ignored is inspiring. And the impact on the lives of those participating is almost beyond description. We were sitting next to the brother of one of the housekeeping staff who was in the performance and he provided an edge-of-his-seat running commentary demonstrating immense pride in his sister. Here are some highlights from the show.
And, while I don’t mean this to sound like an afterthought, as I commented in my post on the Trash Project, this is not just novelty work. It is artistically meaningful, even though (and to some extent because) the performers are not “artists” and their instruments are the tools of their trades.
Once again, Brava Allison!