Mission and History

Our Mission

Forklift Danceworks activates communities through a collaborative creative process.

Values

Forklift Danceworks values equity, collaboration, artistic excellence and connection. The work produced by the company demonstrates its core belief that all people are inherently creative.

Vision

Forklift Danceworks envisions a world where art, movement and creativity are at the core of everyone’s daily life.

Company History

Founded in 2001 by Artistic Director Allison Orr, award-winning Austin-based Forklift Danceworks presents innovative performance projects with diverse communities. Developed through collaborations with over 20 different communities so far—including sanitation workers, warehouse employees, and retired Negro League Baseball players—our dances show the skilled movement and tell the often unheard stories of the people whose work sustains our daily lives. Each performance is created through long-term artistic and ethnographic research within a community, enabling us as artists to understand the collaborating community’s history, challenges, and assets while building trusting relationships and observing movement material. We then create choreography with the participating community members, transforming the ordinary, mundane, and skillful movements of work and everyday life into a performance accompanied by live, original music and stories told in the workers’ or neighbors’ voices. Ultimately through our performances we seek to create opportunities for more informed civic dialogue, deeper understanding of the jobs essential to urban life, and greater connection between citizens and across communities.

Often presented in large-scale, site-specific settings, our free performances consistently play to capacity, with audiences of 500-6,000 people. Partners have included Austin’s African American Cultural Heritage District, Austin’s Aquatics, Fire, Sanitation, Power, and Parks & Recreation Departments, and Goodwill of Central Texas. Forklift has been commissioned by the National Performance Network, the Fusebox Festival, Wesleyan University, the Kyoto Arts Center, and others. National funders include NEA’s Art Works and Our Town programs, NEFA, Dance/USA: Engaging Dance Audiences, and the MAP Fund. The company has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Dance Magazine, BBC Radio, PBS, and NPR. Artistic Director Allison Orr has three times been named Austin’s most outstanding choreographer, Forklift artists have collectively earned 40+ nominations and awards for their work together, and the company is the subject of the award-winning, feature-length documentary Trash Dance.