The Creative Process

What It Takes To Make Dances On Sanitation Workers, Power Lineman & Food Service Employees

Orr at a rehearsal of Power Up. Photo by Nancy Mims, courtesy Forklift Danceworks

Austin renegade Allison Orr doesn't use traditional performers. With her Forklift Danceworks, she has created dances featuring everyone from sanitation workers (The Trash Project) to power linemen (PowerUP), urban forestry department members (The Trees of Govalle) and food service employees (Served).

Orr has a BA in anthropology and calls her process "ethnographic choreography." Using the movements of everyday workers, she crafts large-scale extravaganzas that have included more than 75 performers (and sometimes trucks), audiences of 2,000, and a deep research process that may involve her learning how to scale a power-line distribution pole or riding with a sanitation worker at 4 am.


She recently spoke to Dance Magazine about her unique creative process.

Her Research Process Includes 50-100 Interviews

"When I start a new piece, I listen for the story the workers want told. What do they want people to know about what they do? I usually do about 50 to 100 interviews. Then I watch people doing their expert movement, looking for that seed of a kernel."

"For a first meeting on site, I might bring breakfast tacos. Usually there's an all-staff meeting where I am introduced. Then I start job shadowing, working alongside them when I can. The things I can do I will do, like in Served, I worked the cafeteria line."

How She Gets Non-Dancers To Agree To Perform

Bartholomew Swims is part of a three-year residency with City of Austin Parks & Recreation Department Aquatics Division. Photo by Jonica Moore Studio, courtesy Forklift.

"We don't actually get people to agree to perform until very late in the process. I usually don't ask for what we want until that person is likely to say yes. We put out a question, like 'How do you cook an omelet in three minutes or less?' and they start choreographing it. Then they want to be in it, because they are the ones who can do it."

Her Phrases Grow Out Of The Workers' Expert Movements

The cast of Served performing a phrase based on five movements of mopping. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Forklift

"For the actual piece we organize sequences based on their movements, expanding it in space and time. For Served I watched one gentleman mop the floor and observed five different movements he does, including this beautiful turn. We got together and created a canon."

The Projects Offer Unexpected Benefits For The Performers

Bakers/performers in Served. Photo by Leon Alesi, courtesy Forklift Danceworks.

"Because participants are asked to collaborate across different work groups to make the dance together, they build trust with people they might have worked with for years but never had the chance to really get to know."

"The act of performing changes how collaborators see themselves. Being witnessed in one's everyday work, particularly doing what might be thought of as mundane or ordinary, is transformational."

The Work Can Change How a Community Understands These Workers

A worker from Austin's Urban Forestry Division in The Trees of Govanelle. Photo by Jonica Moore, courtesy Forklift Danceworks.

"Audiences come away with an entirely new understanding of the work. After our shows, audiences will linger for a long time collecting autographs from performers and just sharing their appreciations."

"I've had performers' wives say to me, 'I finally understand what my husband does every day.' "

"People want to know the people and stories behind the work that keeps our cities functioning. We really are desperate for connection. The process of collaborative dancemaking offers this in such magical ways."

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Style & Beauty
Photo by Rachel Papo

Given that almost every ballet performance requires your hair to be in a bun, it can be tricky to master Romeo and Juliet's Italian Renaissance hairstyles. Not for ABT wig and makeup supervisor Rena Most and wig and makeup assistant Jill Haley. The duo is responsible for all three hairstyles Juliet wears onstage, following the exact looks used in the company premiere of the Sir Kenneth MacMillan ballet in 1985. Check out Most and Haley in action, below, and keep scrolling for the step-by-step breakdown.

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Rant & Rave
Mandy Moore at the 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Awards, during which she took home her first Emmy. Photo courtesy Inline/AP

Every year, as soon as the Emmy Award nominations are announced, the first thing I do is scroll down (way, way, way down) to find the nominees for Best Choreography. Last week's announcement was no different, and it was a delightful surprise to see tap queen Chloe Arnold become a first-time nominee for her work on "The Late Late Show With James Corden." Alongside Arnold, Mandy Moore, Travis Wall, Al Blackstone and Christopher Scott received nominations for their dances on awards heavy-hitter "So You Think You Can Dance." (Shout-out to Blackstone for his first Emmy nod!)

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Photo by Jeff Eason, courtesy of Dance Films Association

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Editors’ List: The Goods
Via @joandjax on Instagram

Summertime...and the dressing is eeeeeeeeeeasy. When you're heading straight from the dance studio to the pool or beach, you don't want to be messing around with complicated cover-ups. That's where these 5 MVPs of the romper room come in, bringing their breezy style to your pre-class, post-rehearsal, and everything-in-between looks. Oh, and three out of the five are on sale right now. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and romper-ound! (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

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Throughout her years growing up at New York City Dance Alliance, Jacalyn Tatro has dominated the podium: In 2011, she was National Mini Outstanding Dancer, in 2014 she won National Teen Outstanding Dancer and in 2016 National Senior Outstanding Dancer.

It's easy to see why: Tatro dances with a maturity beyond her years—her performance quality has the kind of nuance that usually only comes from years of experience. She is just as skilled at whipping out high extensions and deep pliés as she is at giving each step its own flavor.

Her latest award? New York City Dance Alliance Foundation's Dance Magazine College Scholarship, worth $25,000. She tells us that she'll put it to good use this fall as a freshman at Juilliard.

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What was your 2017 income? Photo by Fabian Blank/Unsplash

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Rant & Rave
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The entrancing power of Instagram can't be denied. I've lost hours of my life scrolling the platform looking at other people documenting theirs. What starts as a "quick" fill-the-moment check-in can easily lead to a good 10-15 minute session, especially if I enter the nebulous realm of "suggested videos."

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Editors’ List: The Goods

Planning to spend the majority of your summer sweating it out in the studio? Don't worry, you're not alone. And while you're definitely going to want to save the warmups for the winter, you can still accessorize your studio look without adding bulk, thanks to the always-in-style ballet skirt. From bright florals to washed out pastels and wild prints, we rounded up our favorite short (and a few long!) ballet skirts for summer.

AinslieWear Limoncello Wrap Skirt

via AinslieWear

If you can't spend your summer in the Mediterranean under actual lemon trees, this skirt is a solid backup. Plus, it gives us serious Beyonce "Lemonade" vibes, which will help you feel more fierce and less sweaty-mess in class (hopefully).
ainsliewear.com, $50

Dance Training
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A few months ago, your teacher snapped at you for smiling too much. Today, you're keeping your expression neutral when your teacher abruptly cuts the music and walks over to you, pretending to knock on your forehead. "Hello? Is anyone in there? Your face is always blank." Your classmates look just as frozen as you feel, their eyes darting back and forth between you and your teacher until the music resumes and class goes on.

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Many contemporary choreographers today expect women to be game to do some lifting. However, the partnering training that most female dancers grow up with—if they have partnering classes at all—usually only teaches them to be supported by a man. It's no surprise that being a good lifter requires physical strength, but it may also require a change in mind-set.

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President Obama awarding Bill T. Jones the National Medal of Arts. Photo by Pete Souza via Obama White House Archives

Every year since 1985, the President of the United States has recognized our country's greatest artists with the National Medal of Arts. Many dancers and choreographers—from Martha Graham to Tommy Tune to Edward Villella—have received the award.

But President Trump has yet to award any artists (the deadline for the 2016 medals was last February, and historically the ceremony has been held later the same year). Though the White House says it will "likely" issue awards later in 2018, this is the longest gap between ceremonies since the founding of the award—and it speaks to the current administration's general disinterest in the arts.

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Dance Training
Giphy

Turnout can be a tricky thing. Perfect 180 degrees can make your lines look gorgeous, but gripping, forcing and twisting to get it there can lead to injuries down the road.

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Dance Training
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News
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