Video of the Week: Forklifts Used in Dance Recital Celebrating Tree Crews

Forklifts, brush trucks and other vehicles will be part of a special dance recital scheduled for next weekend that is designed to celebrate the hard working tree crews who manicure parks and forests in Austin, Texas.

Welcome to this week’s Video of the Week:

No, this isn’t an April Fool’s Joke. I checked it out. It’s for real.

“The Trees of Govalle” is a free performance that will feature the employees and the equipment of Austin’s Urban Forestry Division. It will be held Saturday and Sunday at Govalle Park, a 26-acre city park that features athletic fields, a swimming pool, picnic tables, barbecue pits (it’s Texas, after all) and a playground.

The dance recital is part of Austin’s annual Fusebox Festival and is being held in conjunction with the thinkEAST lLiving Charrette Project, whatever that means.

A Salute to Tree Workers

“Featuring the trees of East Austin’s Govalle Park and the hardworking Urban Forestry employees who care for them, the ‘Trees of  Govalle’ will highlight the care and dedication that goes into maintaining some of our city’s oldest and tallest organisms,” stated a news release announcing the event from Forklift Danceworks. “Rooted in one of Austin’s oldest neighborhoods, the dance will also incorporate the Govalle-Johnston Terrace neighborhood’s rich history and celebrates some of Austin’s longest-standing families.”

The dance is being choreographed by Allison Orr and Krissie Marty and will “utilize the movement and finesse of the arborists and their machinery to create a dance highlighting the skill, commitment and elegance that is needed to keep our city’s green space healthy,” according to the release.

First-Time Performers Nervous

Marshall Duncan is one of the Austin urban forestry workers who will be dancing in the recital. He said workers have been busy rehearsing for the performance but are nervous because they have to do their jobs and remember choreography at the same time.

“Oh, man, am I going to miss my jump?” Duncan said. “Am I going to miss my turn? You’re kind of nervous, but we’re going to get it together.

Audience Invited to Participate … in Nature

“During the dance, audience members will also learn about how to care for our urban forests, and upon arrival audience members will be directed to walk along a wooded path,” organizers said. “During this walk, local arborists and volunteers from TreeFolks will offer audience members information about how to care for and maintain a healthy and vibrant urban forest.”

The performance will be accompanied by an original musical score composed and directed by Grahm Reynolds, with production and lighting design by Stephen Pruitt.

A History of Dancing Forklifts

It’s not the first time forklifts and other vehicles have been part of a Texas dance performance. In 2013, Forklift Danceworks co-sponsored a performance called PowerUP with Austin Energy, the local power company. That dance performance featured more than 50 of the utility’s electrical technicians and a set of 25 utility poles.

PowerUP told the story of power delivery and also was accompanied by an original score written exclusively for the event by composer Graham Reynolds and performed by a string ensemble led by Peter Bay, conductor of the Austin Symphony Orchestra.

Orr, who is founder of Forklift Danceworks, said her organization seeks to combine the utility and functionality of heavy equipment such as forklifts with the artistic style and grace of great dancing.

“We make dances from daily life,” said Orr, who herself is an independent professional dancer and choreographer specializing in modern dance.”My husband and I came up with the name (Forklift Danceworks) to celebrate the working person.”

Some of the group’s previous Austin performances have been co-sponsored by the city’s sanitation workers and firefighters, along with Venetian gondoliers. One performance was performed on the steps of the Texas state capital building in Austin and featured toe steppers.

In 2009, the group’s large-scale performance saluting trash trucks was recognized by the local newspaper, The Austin-American Statesman, as the city’s top arts event of the year. A documentary about that performance, entitled “Trash Dance” was exhibited at several prominent film festivals and won multiple awards.

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