'Play Ball'

Allison Orr finds dance in the diamond, choreographing baseball moves in a tribute to Downs Field

'Play Ball'
Courtesy of Forklift Danceworks

If you've ever been awestruck by the wind-up of a pitch or seen grace in the swing of a bat, then you know how closely baseball's moves resemble dance. Well, friends, this weekend the pitch, the swing, the steal, the slide, the catch, the tag, the call at the plate, won't just resemble dance, they'll be dance, thanks to Austin's great champion of everyday motion, Allison Orr. The Forklift Danceworks artistic director and choreographic force behind PowerUP and The Trash Project has found her latest inspiration at the diamond, taking those routine movements and rituals at the ball field, from tossing the horsehide in warmups to high-fives after a homer, and remixing them into a performance that highlights the poetry of their motion. Play Ball, as the new dance is titled, will feature players with the Huston-Tillotson Rams making their moves to a score by Graham Reynolds performed by such local notables as vocalist Pam Hart and trumpeter Ephraim Owens.

Play Ball is the centerpiece of District Days at Downs Field, a weekend of events to raise awareness of – and more importantly, cash for – the historic Eastside ball field that the Austin Black Senators called home in the first half of the 20th century. Many a great Negro League team matched bats there, along with some of the greatest names in the game: Satchel Paige, Willie Mays, Smokey Joe Williams, and the Shakespeare of shortstops, Austin's own Willie Wells. No less a legend than Buck O'Neil, on paying a return visit to Downs, stepped onto it and said, "I'm home."

Sadly, this home to so many boys of summer, including the Rams and players with the Austin Metro Baseball League now, hasn't enjoyed the financial support that would keep it in tip-top shape. But a coalition of citizens, Austin's African American Cultural Heritage District, Austin Sports Commission, Austin Metro Baseball League, the Rosewood Neighborhood Association, University of Texas Community Engagement Center, Preservation Austin, Huston-Tillotson, and Forklift have partnered to form the Downs Field Conservancy to restore and protect the field's infrastructure. It will kick off the District Days with a fundraiser, For the Love of the Game, on Friday, featuring a reception, dinner, and performance of Play Ball. The fun continues on Saturday with an afternoon of music and dance by the Peterson Brothers, Serafia, St. James Baptist Church Youth Choir, Da'Shade Moonbeam, Ballet Afrique, and more; and, of course, a baseball game, with the Texas Playboys taking on the Austin Greyhounds. Then, on Saturday and Sunday nights are the free performances of Play Ball. Please note: Due to limited space, you must have reserved a ticket to attend. Make your reservations online at www.districtdayaustin.org or www.forkliftdanceworks.org. Now, batter up!

Play Ball runs May 10-11, Saturday-Sunday, 7:30pm, at Downs Field, 2816 E. 12th. For more information, visit www.districtdayaustin.org.

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Play Ball, Austin dance, Forklift Danceworks, Allison Orr, Downs Field, Negro Baseball League, Graham Reynolds, Pamela Hart, Ephraim Owens, Willie Wells, Austin's African American Cultural Heritage District, Rosewood Neighborhood Association, Huston-Tillotson University, Austin Sports Commission, Preservation Austin, Austin Metro Baseball League, UT Community Engagement Center

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